LeadershipBroadsheetDiversity and InclusionCareersVenture Capital

Why Storytelling Became the Hot New Skill In Business

October 2, 2018, 12:27 AM UTC
Desiree Gruber
Desiree Gruber, CEO of Full Picture, speaks at Fortune's Most Powerful Women Summit in Laguna Niguel, Calif on Monday Oct. 1, 2018.

You may think business is all about the numbers, but experts say today, more than ever, it’s about “story.” And that makes storytelling a skill almost as critical in business as corporate accounting is these days.

In a world swimming in noise and content, it’s all the more crucial that brands and their messages resonate and stick in the minds of people, explained Desiree Gruber, founder and CEO of Full Picture, a brand management and production company.

Gruber, who is credited with creating Project Runway and orchestrating Michelle Obama’s very viral turn on Carpool Karaoke, is a master of buzz. But speaking at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit in Laguna Niguel, Calif. Monday afternoon, she noted the business of creating it has gotten tougher.

Twenty-five years ago, she explained, the formula was a lot simpler: press release, a story in the New York Times Style section, and a segment on Jay Leno or the late night show du jour. Those outlets are still useful, she commented, but today, they’ll at most get you “a ripple.” Back then, they created a splash according to Gruber.

She added that companies today have to be focused not just on telling their stories on all relevant platforms, but “activating” customers and fans to tell their stories for them. She noted you need people who are “loyal and loud.”

Tamara Ingram, Worldwide CEO of the ad agency J. Walter Thompson, agreed that well-executed storytelling is essential for doing business in 2018, and that it’s harder than it used to be. She stressed the importance of a brand’s story being authentic and true to a brand’s deeply-rooted purpose.

The executives agreed that storytelling is also key for individuals in their careers. Gruber noted that while women are often hesitant to brag or tell their own stories, they miss out on opportunities when they don’t. She urges everyone to work past the “cloud of fear” that surrounds personal storytelling by practicing.