Positive Stories vs. Downers: ...

shrek and fiona, high-tech PR and storytelling

The movie business provides a window into how people like their stories.

The path for movies can take many forms, but they end on a positive note 99 percent of the time.

That’s the way we like it.

Shrek gets the princess (albeit, with a revised look).

Michael Oher goes on to play offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens.

Indiana Jones solves the riddle.

Even in a depressing ending like “Cool Hand Luke,” Paul Newman is there to soften the blow.

Turning to business stories, 2009 will go down as “The Year of the Downer.” The financial carnage has consumed the media in a way that makes coverage of the dot-com meltdown look like amateur hour.

Yet, the niche media property Tonic, which only covers good news like “Ingredients for Peace: The Cookbook” (you too can bake chicken like Desmond Tutu), has seen its readership significantly increase amidst the wreckage.

chart, media analysis of tonic, positive storytelling

People still want heroes, obstacles overcome and happy endings.

With this in mind, I believe 2010 will find business media properties more open than ever to positive stories. The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of reporters and bloggers don’t find satisfaction in writing for the umpteenth time about another foreclosure in Bakersfield.

Now, that doesn’t mean rev. 3.554 of a product offering or your CEO bowling to raise money for charity will end up in a national daily.

But legitimate business stories, those that build drama articulating the difference between what was and what is, use numbers, and bring anecdotes to the fore have a better chance of getting a listen next year.

The psychological component for business storytelling – now there’s a phrase in which an acronym doesn’t quite work – is what I expect to be a factor in 2010.

Quantifying this, I’ve created what I’m calling the “Cautiously Optimistic Index.” Using the Factiva U.S. database, I’ve captured the number of articles that mention the phrase “cautiously optimistic” cut by month.

chart, tech pr, cautiously optimistic index

Aside from a dip in September – perhaps the one-year anniversary of the Lehman Brothers collapse caused a pang of temporary heartburn – you can see an almost 3X rise since the start of the year.

This bodes well for a positive environment in 2010.

I know, I know, not exactly scientific. But if you want science, go talk to Wall Street.


  • Michael Margolis

    Lou – I couldn’t agree more. I think there’s a unique shift occuring that’s making people more hungry and eager for what I call “the bigger story”. Its the subject of my storytelling manifesto for change-makers – http://www.believemethebook.com

  • Lou Hoffman


    Appreciate your perspective.

    If you’re interested in contributing to Ishmael’s Corner, would welcome your contribution.

    Plan to read your book over the holiday break.


Leave a Reply