Stories are foundational to our humanity. Stories communicate our history, values, experiences, and dreams. We are captivated by the worlds they can take us to and the truths they can reveal about ourselves. Although the vehicle of storytelling has shifted over time, from hieroglyphics, to books, film and now social media, the act of storytelling carries on. Despite cultural ties, social norms, and national origins, stories are being told around the world because of the power they hold to transcend barriers of time and difference.

In 2009, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave a TED Talk on “The Danger of a Single Story”. In her talk, she discusses the power that stories possess to shape our perception of others and the world around us. She warns that far too often we use this power to perpetuate a single narrative. Adichie gives the example of going to college in the United States. When she arrived, her roommate was surprised to learn that her favorite musician was Mariah Carey, that she spoke English, and knew how to use a stove. Her roommate unconsciously carried a single story of Africa, assuming that individuals in African only listen to tribal music, don’t speak English, and don’t know how to use modern technology or appliances. Adichie quickly recognized that there was a single narrative of poverty and catastrophe being told of Africa in the United States.

As much as stories can inspire, they can also, as Adichie says, “disposes and malign” when we are only seeking, hearing, and promoting one story. This is not to say that prevalent stories are bad, but that we can too quickly accept them without considering if this story, when communicated to others, will empower or marginalize.

As PR professionals, we are storytellers. We are tasked with the responsibility and honor of telling the stories of others and must not take Adichie’s warning lightly. From the stories we pitch, to the stories we tell our best friend, the information we choose to include or leave out is pivotal to what narrative is being told.

At PRPOSE, our goal and hope is to lend our skills and expertise to those who are seeking to tell a different story, to challenge the single story of corporate business beyond traditional models of success that are measured in terms of ROI rather than impact. We seek to tell a story beyond what is expected. Instead of measuring the reach of our storytelling by the number of people it reaches, we prefer to measure instead by the change that story can influence with the right people. Stories have the power to change the world. It is our privilege to be a part of sharing them with clients who are invested in creating meaningful impact.