The End of the Public: Interactive Age Storytelling

The following is an excerpt from our upcoming book, The TV Guide to Telling Your Organization’s Story. In the Information Age, we were (generally) able to share a set of cultural norms and experiences to create a (generally) mutual understanding of morality and reality. The Interactive Age signifies the end of any opportunity to “teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony.” Instead, the Internet has given everyone the opportunity to apply their own, highly fluid set of beliefs and experiences to their entertainment and information choices, which ultimately determine what information they consume and who they share it with.

These beliefs and experiences bring people together in online tribes—some large, some small. Some long-lasting, some just short bursts of communal energy—but all of which are constantly in flux.

This creates a distinct challenge for organizations trying to tell their story or communicate a consistent brand image: different people will interpret and react to these efforts in different ways and at different times.

For instance, compare the norms of earlier days to those of today. Ads that might have drawn a giggle or a wink in 1963 could cause you physical harm today.

And because there is no “sunset provision” for information in the Interactive Age, you have to be mindful of how your messages today play in the not too distant future. You are communicating with a spectrum of generations, beliefs, knowledge bases, etc. every time you post online.

One of the better ways to facilitate communication among very different communities is to spell out the assumptions and beliefs that are behind a given conclusion.

With organizational storytelling, this translates into considering your organization as a new world for your audience. Like a TV show, it may have many similarities to the world that some of these individuals inhabit, but interaction is aided by repeatedly citing the core tenets on which your communications are based.