Selling vs Telling: The Untold Story Of Storytelling

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Brian Kufawatamba, Strategic Director.

Before you even reached the office today, you were probably exposed to a dozen types of storytelling and didn’t even realise it, including:

  • Songs on your car playlist (music meets poetry)
  • Billboards by the roadside (photography meets prose)
  • Social posts on your mobile (personal diary meets theatre)
  • Road rage gestures from furious drivers (miming meets performance art)  

Then you arrive at work and immediately craft an elaborate story for why you’re late…

So, the question is: are great storytellers born… or made?

The good news is we’re all born storytellers. You just need to watch toddlers improvising epic dramas with their toys.

But there’s bad news, too. As adults, we’re so obsessed with selling that we often forget to sell our stories.

So consider this:

If your interviewer doesn’t buy your story, you don’t get the job.

If your client doesn’t buy your story, you don’t get their business.

If you don’t sell your vision to the man or woman of your dreams, you don’t get their heart.

There are many agencies that are sellers, and very few that are storytellers, but it’s extremely rare to find one that can sell its stories.

No wonder elite brands like Microsoft now have a Director of Storytelling. There’s a reason why kids demand stories at bedtime: it literally helps them to dream, and you too can be the dreamcatcher for your audience.

But what does it take to become a better storyteller, starting today?

Just as a good writer starts off as a good reader, a great storyteller must first be a great listener. For our record-breaking season of Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival, we listened to what our audience talked about: what would capture their attention, and what might lose it.

We all have that one friend who turns a simple story about their day into a blockbuster rom-com six-part mini series. Similarly, for this festival we made ‘ordinary’ topics about our ancestors’ heritage seem ‘extraordinary’ to Millennials and others, using our arsenal of experiential storytelling. Across the entire event, we told stories through traditional Emirati cuisine, fragrances, games, animals, art and more.

If we as an agency needed any concrete proof, Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival provided it. It confirmed that instead of telling your story to a million people, it’s better to inspire a million people to tell a million stories in their own way.

Because the best storytellers leave you seeing the invisible and believing the impossible.


Brian Kufawatamba is Alsayegh Media’s Strategic Director and one of the agency’s longest serving employees. As versatile as he is larger than life, he’s intrigued by the dark arts of strategy in human nature, and its use in history, art, music, culture and everyday life.