Storytelling vs Story Selling —
Galvanizing the Nation to tell its many stories

We would all like to think this is the debutante decade for New Zealand. That we will reach multiculturalism, add lots of value to our commodities, and take our place in the peaceful Pacific. Communicating this excitement, the quality and uniqueness of New Zealand is a task, which has confronted and confounded the nation for many years. As probably one of the more unique water nations of the world, we have no inland people, mountain tribes or the like. We have always lived, leisured and looked out over it.

Our sense of inquisitiveness and discovery made all of us brave dangerous waters to come here, and now to make it better we have to brave them again; time in the international marketplace. Without soul and a spiritual togetherness we have little chance of success. The vision of who we are and where to from here has us trying so hard to express our identity through festivals, rugby world cups, expo’s and the like, and yet it continues to elude us. 

We always seem to begin at the wrong end. It’s our settler story, which holds us back. We seem to be trapped in a time warp unable to express where to from here, invariably more comfortable in the past. This is the land that for most of its history has dominated its inhabitants. Its backbone was high, strong and forbidding. Its rivers crashed through canyons and exploded in flood. And at its center, it was still a living thing. Great eruptions and their legacy of lakes, streams and uncertainty are with us even now.

ur macho busyness leaves us little time to reflect on such things. And our curators and cultural archivists continue in their failure to relate on such issues. They fail to see their ability to contribute so much, to explain simply the art forms, their stories. To fill a lonely managers soul with another dimension. A sense of history and time, laughter, softness, even craziness and impermanence. It's this vacuum in our souls when better filled that will eventually produce a vision for New Zealand. A contentedness arising from who we are, where we all come from, and what we're about.

Our story needs to begin in the present as to what we are about and how we intend to divide into the big troubled urban world out there. We are already a strong counterpoint as a ‘pure’ holiday destination, but there needs to be many more expressions, to showcase our smartness. I’ve come to the conclusion that identity for New Zealand is not so much about who we are but rather why we are the way we are.

Developing our story as to why we are the way we are, gives us an opportunity to express to the world our particular point of difference in a futuristic way. We've decided how we wish to live, work and play and want to share this through the medium of our products, services and experiences with the wider world beyond.

Understanding this why wherever we find it, be it an electric fence, a holiday, an educational experience or an item of software, will help us tell a much more contemporary story. Why the way we are, could well be explained in a story thread of “last discovered, least affected”.

Our natural history, and contemporary way of life because of this isolation has seen us evolve differently. Great storytelling is a tension of opposites; there is always a backdrop and foreground to a personality and every individual storyline needs to be mixed and matched depending on the audience. Software developers don't require the natural history story. Their backdrop could well be city and campus life in the positioning of product. Education, food, dairy etc would in each case be different. The trick is to understand that stories are all about balancing this tension of opposites.

In telling our story to the world it's important to avoid an overarching one, which always looks like a try hard campaign, which the world will see through. Rather it’s more about the many stories we have, or parts of the sum, which will make us interesting and vibrant going forward.

I have always felt there is an enormous distinction between storytelling and story selling, a point most frequently overlooked by the advertising industry. We all need to become storytellers, throughout our companies and communities in

our own special way. There is an increasingly curious world out there insatiable for content. Being last discovered and least affected is an enormously infectious idea on the world stage.