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If You’re a Storyteller, Your Great Power Comes with Great Responsibility

The adage, ‘With great power comes great responsibility’, attributed to Voltaire, various political leaders of centuries past and popularised in a 1962 Spiderman comic, is equally applicable to professions of today, particularly those in which storytelling is used to influence people’s opinions, decisions and behaviour.

While those who use storytelling, such as marketers, public relations practitioners, salespeople, coaches, lawyers and politicians, for example, may not have the super powers of a comic hero like Spiderman, they still possess a persuasive power that can be used for ‘good or evil’.

Persuasion per se is not bad. In fact, it underpins many things we do in life. From trying to get the kids to eat their vegetables or do their homework, to trying to convince a recruitment panel why you’re the best candidate for a job or trying to convince your work colleagues why a particular strategic approach is best, persuasion is part of everyday life.

However, with what we know about the psychology of influence, the power of language and tonality, and the abundant mixed messaging in an overcommunicated marketplace, it is beholden upon every professional who uses storytelling, to ensure that the stories they tell are told with clarity and integrity.

At the heart of any persuasive storytelling approach, whether written, verbal or pictorial, is intent. Therefore, if we begin with a morally good intention, the responsibility of our great power and its impacts should not be a burden.

Below are some examples of how persuasive storytelling may be used for good and not ‘evil’:

  • In marketing, being transparent about product claims, ingredients and client results, and using testimonial reviews from ‘real’ people.
  • In public relations, crafting key messages and narratives for public education campaigns that use inclusive and accessible language and imagery.
  • In community engagement, being transparent to all stakeholders about the potential impacts of a government decision and how their input will inform the decision.
  • In sales, selling your product to a prospect only if you truly believe it will solve (or go a long way towards solving) their problem.
  • In coaching, fully explaining various techniques and their potential impacts, before using them.
  • In politics, spruiking policies for positive public change above concern for votes.

Should a person, business or organisation be found out to deliberately mislead or deceive through their storytelling, the misuse of their persuasive power will become the measure of their character, and rightly, diminish their reputation.


May the positive ripple effect of your work enhance your reputation!


©Ros Weadman 2022 Ros Weadman helps people and organisations to build a strong positive brand, increase market visibility and enhance their reputation. Ros’s new book ‘Enhance Your Reputation’ is out now. Order your copy here.

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