Social Media Storytelling: Seeing and Thinking Differently

October 7, 2009 //

By John Esterle

Continuing the thread about the power of stories, check out Kari Dunn Saratovsky’s brief interview with Mark Horvath on the Social Citizens blog at The Case Foundation. It offers a brief, compelling, primer of how social media can be a powerful storytelling tool to make the invisible visible (in this case homelessness).

Mark’s line about the importance of organizations losing their “lone ranger” mentality is instructive. What especially pops out for me are his comments about the value of helping people that think differently in terms of expanding your own thinking and increasing your impact in relation to the causes you’re standing up for. With that, he’s certainly preaching to the choir here at TWI. As always, though, we recognize doing so is far easier said than done.

Speaking of media and thinking and choirs, of course, puts me in mind of TWI grantee, Active Voice, and how they use film, television, and multimedia to spark cross-perspective dialogue and inform policy making. Telling compelling, character-driven stories is central to Active Voice’s approach and I can think of no better place to go for smart thinking about how to use media to help us to see and think differently about a range of important issues.

So, here’s a question (or three): Has reaching beyond the choir changed your thinking? If so, how? And how did this change in thinking manifest in your work?


  1. Paul VanDeCarr on October 10, 2009 at 9:53 am

    A thought about reaching "beyond the choir" — as opposed to just preaching to the choir. In the 1980s I was at this anti-nuclear protest in Groton, Connecticut, where nuclear subs were built. Workers were entering the plant, while on the other side of a barricade us protesters either stood in silent vigil or chanted against nuclear proliferation. The workers mostly just ignored us. But there was this one protester who — and I remember this partly because of his British accent — called out plaintively to the workers, "Please don't go in! Please, I beg of you, don't go in to build these subs!" Most of us were, in essence, just talking to ourselves — chanting for each other's benefit. But this guy was actually speaking to the workers in this plant. One worker did actually respond to the Englishman, he turned away from the plant, and crossed the barricade into the crowd of protesters. I don't recall what happened then, or if I even knew at the time. Perhaps he talked with the protesters, perhaps he just wanted to get lunch, perhaps he was a protester himself posing as a worker! Whatever the case, I admired his little way of reaching beyond the choir, of actually addressing the workers at the nuclear submarine plant, instead of just haranguing them. I'm not active in the peace movement anymore, but I have tried to carry out this principle in my other work.

  2. The Whitman Institute on October 13, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Thanks, Paul. Your story is a great illustration of reaching across lines. In that type of instance, I also wonder what would have happened if he'd asked a question rather than made a plea.


  3. Richard on October 19, 2009 at 4:27 am


    It is a Mind Blowing blog.

    This is not about selling in the social media . It’s about showing that social media tools can help the business adjust to the fundamental changes taking place within marketing which all business owners know is happening but have no idea. So in essence social media is the reason for change. We must first need to know why social media has ramped up in significance for business.

  4. The Whitman Institute on October 21, 2009 at 10:28 am


    Thanks for both your enthusiastic response about the blog and for your observations. Your comment that "in essence social media is the reason for change" is an intriguing one. Reminds me of Marshall McLuhan's old phrase "the media is the message." I do think that communications processes, whether they are social media tools or in-person dialogue, can, by their very nature, transform how we are seeing and thinking about the world.