Unstorytelling

: If President Obama had been a better storyteller during his first term, more of the change he promised might have occurred.Okay that's not really a word, but it should be — to describe the failure of telling your story.

In a CBS News interview, President Obama said the biggest mistake of his first term was failing to "tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times."

David Meerman Scott agreed in his blog with the president's self-assessment and reflected back on a 2008 post titled "Ten marketing lessons from the Barack Obama presidential campaign." Lesson #3, Scott said, was "clearly and simply articulate what you want people to believe."

Robert Holland, who handles internal communications for a Fortune 500 company in Virginia, took issue with GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney's comeback that the presidency is all about leadership, not storytelling.

"Yes, being president is about leading," Holland wrote in his blog, "but a big part of leadership is telling stories. Ronald Reagan knew it and that's why he is still called 'The Great Communicator.'"

Holland recalled the views of Carol Kinsey Goman, who counsels businesses on culture change. "Good stories are more powerful than plain facts," Goman said. "That is not to reject the value of facts, of course, but simply to recognize their limits in influencing people. People make decisions based on what facts mean to them, not on the facts themselves. Stories give facts meaning."

Businesses, nonprofits and public agencies routinely spout facts and talk about policies without connecting them to the audience they are trying to reach. Storytelling would help.

Stories convey a human dimension as they illustrate how a new product, a community service or a revised policy impacts people. Put another way, stories shift what you say away from product features to buyer benefits. Stories answer the question, "So why do I care?"

Holland says Obama failed to deliver the change he promised, but adds, "Perhaps if he had been a better storyteller, more change might have happened."

It is a cautionary tale for all organizations to consider as they evaluate their own communications.