Recruited by chance 18 years ago, Steve Clayton is now the Chief Storyteller at Microsoft, one of the most valuable companies in the world. Everything started in 2008, when he decided to open an unofficial blog to talk about the company he works for and that he loves. After 2 years, he finally had his dream job: finding great stories around the campus and share them with the world.
E: What does it mean to be the chief storyteller at Microsoft? How does it work?
S: Well, six years ago, when I started, it was just me. Now we are a team of almost 20 people, and the main reason we exist is because we as a company have many stories to tell that had previously gone untold or been taken to other channels, like magazines or other media. A few years ago we decided that these stories should have been told by the only people who really wanted to tell these stories: us. So we invested in it, we took a risk and believed that there is an audience for stories told from Microsoft. And that’s when it all came about. We decided we had some great stories that needed to be told and we wanted to go out and tell them.
E: Apple had Steve Jobs, who was able to deliver a powerful perception of his company. Moreover, he was the CEO of the company and the quintessence of it. Do you have some personality like him at Microsoft?
S: Well, I am the Chief Storyteller, and is a fun job to help to create and design the stories, but I am not the only person who tells the stories. I spend lots of time with our CEO, helping him deliver the stories that he tells on stage and in the media. There are many storytellers at Microsoft, and my job is really to be almost a curator of these stories, a finder of stories, and then figuring out when is the right time and what’s the right media to publish those stories. I really think our CEO is a great storyteller.
E: How much is important today to tell a story to the clients, and in general to the public, for an innovative company like Microsoft?
S: I think it’s incredibly important and the reason is that we are designed, as a species, to love stories. The world we are now living in is full of data, full of information, and they bombard us on a daily basis. Emails, websites, radio, TV, magazines, newspapers: there is just lots of information everywhere and people just don’t care about it. But you know, when you’ll go out for a drink with your friends this evening, or when you see your family at the week-end, you won’t tell each other information; you’ll share stories. Sometimes the stories are so incredible that they actually tell themselves, some other times you have to tell stories of failure, because you can learn powerful teachings from them. And stories get told and retold. Stories have stand the test of time. We go to the movies because is a story, not data. So I think that the power for any organization of any type, is that stories has something that people understand. They stick with people, and you can change people viewpoint by telling them a story. If you read a financial report, it doesn’t really change your viewpoint but your set of information. Instead, if you tell a story about what your company has done, and how it is changing the world, then that will change the perception of people more than any number or data.