How to Be a Story Activist with Vincent Stanley

On this week’s episode of the Business of Story podcast, your host, Park Howell interviews the Director of Philosophy for Patagonia, Vincent Stanley. With a remarkable track record of sustainable storytelling and environmental activism, Mr. Stanley has a wealth of information to share about folding story into marketing.

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“We’re not on our journeys to save the world but to save ourselves, and in that process we save the world.” —Joseph Campbell via @ParkHowell

On this week’s episode of the Business of Story podcast, your host, Park Howell interviews the Director of Philosophy for Patagonia, Vincent Stanley. With a remarkable track record of sustainable storytelling and environmental activism, Mr. Stanley has a wealth of information to share about folding story into marketing.

Patagonia: Remarkable Activism

As the bird calls behind his voice in this episode imply, Mr. Stanley has a keen eye to environmental sustainability, a unique approach to storytelling, and has been with Patagonia since its inception.

During his tenure with Patagonia, Stanley has seen a marked shift in human behavior toward the forces of nature. “What we’re now seeing is a moment of humility; [we realize] we have impoverished nature in our efforts to control it.”

This dynamic change has been a constant force behind Patagonia’s ideals and their activism.

Story is in Patagonia’s DNA

What are the elements of story that Vincent finds essential to communicate with Patagonia’s consumers?

He acknowledges that all businesses have to begin with a good story—that is, your own authentic, personal experience—and that you mustn’t be afraid of it.

“Every business has it’s own DNA, just like every person has their own DNA, and their own story,” he says. “People are often afraid to tell their own story because they want to sound hip… but the more you discover your own story and uncover what’s different about your story than any other business, you create a discipline for your business and a marketing differentiation.”

Be a Teacher, Be a Friend

Patagonia has a special knack for effective communication. By treating customers like friends, they have the confidence to invest in the company and to listen when the company shares messages of activism. This authentic approach leads to transparency, honesty, and vulnerability. As a result, consumers invest more in the company and products.

Cognitive Dissonance

Unfortunately, we often continue to engage with an expired storyline these days. Our economy is based on “gross national product” rather than the concept that not all of the products our economy produces are healthy investments—for ourselves or for the planet. Living with that past story is detrimental to economic and environmental growth and sustainability.

So how does Patagonia combat this outdated storyline?

By creating a new narrative. Rather than focusing exclusively on sales, Patagonia also invests in education.

Infinite Narrative Potential

Have you ever wanted to engage with your community in a new way? Consider taking a page from Patagonia’s book. With creative investments in both animated shorts and feature length documentaries, the educational possibilities are limitless. “Attention spans are underrated,” he says. “If you can make a powerful film…people will pay attention.”

Check out some of Patagonia’s stories below:

The Footprint Chronicles

DamNation

Traceable Down

The New Localism

Story Junction

The confluence of all of these amazing stories? Stanley warns against allowing your brand to be held up on a pedestal as a hero. People often want a story that seems cut and dry, black and white, but when taking a closer look, humanity shines through the grey, in-between space.

By showing consumers the actuality of a gritty story complete with its vulnerability and complications, you sustain the richer reality of the narrative and impart the responsibility and the empowering ability to make change.

How Do I Identify My Own Story?

While uncovering your own story may seem daunting, it is actually quite simple. Look inside yourself. Ask questions. Be introspective. More than anything, it is a matter of having confidence in yourself and your brand. And don’t worry—Stanley notes that he has never met an entrepreneur who didn’t have an interesting tale to tell.

Look to your details, even the things that seem too insignificant or intimate. “It is precisely that kind of thing that makes people want to do business with you,” Stanley reminds us.

“That Moment”

There is almost always a moment in each of our lives when we finally decide to confront an issue. Perhaps something that we have always found troubling finally passes our threshold of forbearance and we decide to take a stand. That moment, whether it be leaving a job or starting a business, is the initiation of our journey, our story. Identify this moment for yourself and you have arrived at the beginning of your unique story.

As Stanley says, don’t be afraid. You and your story have unique DNA and an important mission to accomplish here. Illuminate the conflict, find your moment, and begin your story of social activism today.

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