Bovee & Thill Business Communication Blog
Insights and commentary from the authors of the world’s
leading business communication textbooks


Enter your Email:

Suggestion Box

Please send us your suggestions for improving our textbooks and supplementary materials. We’d be grateful for your feedback.

Bovée & Thill Mobile App


Archive for the 'Storytelling' Category

VisuallyInfographics tend to fall into two basic categories: stylized data presentations and narratives. The former, such as this piece on customer satisfaction and loyalty, don’t necessarily convey any more information than basic charts and graphs in a conventional report or webpage would, but their communication value lies in their ability to catch the audience’s attention and the ease with which they can be distributed online.

The latter go beyond this, taking full advantage of the visual medium to tell stories or show interconnected processes. These infographics can be powerful communication tools, even to the point of replacing conventional reports. This infographic from the Sustainable America initiative, for example, uses the infographic format to explain how to compost successfully even if you live in an apartment. Narrative infographics can become quite elaborate, such as this animated piece on the story of coffee production.

For a class activity, ask students to find several narrative-style infographics online ( is a good place to start) and analyze their storytelling effectiveness. Does each infographic tell an effective story? How does it use emotional and logical elements to make its case? Does it use any suspect or oversimplified information (failing to differentiate correlation and causation seems to be a common sin among infographic designers)?

Creating professional-quality infographics is beyond the reach of the average business communicator, but if you'd like to have students give infographic design a try, they can draw sketches by hand or use the simple graphical tools in word processing or presentation software.

EdisonThe timeline feature in Facebook is a great tool for visual narration, particularly if a company has a rich library of compelling photos and other visuals to use. And as GE demonstrates, if you're telling a story of innovation, it helps if you can start the story with an image of one of the most famous inventors in history!

This PowerPoint slide shows the beginning of the GE timeline story.

Bovee and Thill blog – Hall of Fame – GE on Facebook

We've written here before about the power of storytelling in business communication, and all our textbooks now cover storytelling as a compositional mode, so we are definitely intrigued to see how businesses will be using Facebook's new timeline feature as a storytelling tool.

This article in Ad Age highlights a number of firms that have extended their Facebook timelines back in time to tell the company's story from its founding. The tone and presentation vary widely, as one would expect, from the quirky nonsense of Old Spice to the journalistic presentation of the New York Times.

These timelines offer a great opportunity for a student activity. Have your students analyze several Facebook timeline histories and compare them with the About Us pages on the companies' websites. Which medium presents each company's story in the most compelling fashion, the Facebook timeline or the website? What are the potential disadvantages of the Facebook timeline feature? (Students should recognize, for example, that the linear, chronological format can be a frustrating way to find specific information and to read the company history in proper order, one has to find the very bottom of the timeline and read upward.)

What do you think of the timeline as a communication feature in general and as a storytelling tool in particular?

In the beginning, there was storytelling.

Humans have been telling stories for as long as they’ve been communicating. As individuals, stories are central to our experience of learning how to communicate. And much of the communication in contemporary life, from journalism to political discourse, relies on narrative structure.

In spite of its pervasive role in human affairs, though, storytelling is often overlooked as a mode of business communication. However, stories can be an effective way to organize business messages in a surprising number of scenarios, from recruiting and training employees to enticing investors and customers.

Advertisements are often mini-narratives, with the product or a user of the product playing the role of the hero. Entrepreneurs use stories to help investors see how their new ideas have the potential to affect people’s lives (and therefore generate lots of sales and return on investment). Companies tell the story of their founding and early years, using their heritage as a way to explain who they are today.

Career-related stories, such as how someone found the opportunity to work on projects he or she is passionate about, can encourage skilled employees to consider joining a firm.

Business stories can be cautionary tales as well, dramatizing the consequences of career blunders, ethical mistakes, and strategic missteps.

Whether one’s purpose is to inspire, persuade, teach, or warn, chances are narrative technique can make the message more interesting, personal, and memorable. As the business media landscape continues to evolve and fragment, storytelling is likely to become evenmore important as a way to stand out from the clutter and chaos of competing messages. In fact, we’re adding significant coverage of storytelling to the newest editions of our textbooks, including a variety of student activities and cases.

Have you discussed storytelling in your business communication classes? We’d love to hear any stories you have to tell. Go to, search for this topic, and write your comments.