Updated on: February 22nd, 2017
Speaker. Strategic Story Consultant. Professional Storyteller. Author. Writer. Communication Training Trainer.
These are all words to describe Faye Fulton, a local entrepreneur who offers training and individual consultation on how to use strategic stories to grow your business or advance your career.
When we first spoke to Faye and asked her to tell us a little bit about herself, we knew that we just couldn’t share her story–it wouldn’t be right. Because who better to tell the story of Faye Fulton than Faye Fulton herself?
Here is Faye Fulton’s story, in her own words:
I was born in the United States, but at a very young age I moved with my family to Sicily. We relocated to the beautiful city of Palermo. Sicily will always be home to me as I was too young to remember much about life in the U.S. Growing up in Europe, I was surrounded by people from all sorts of cultures, from all parts of the world, and speaking many different languages.
One of the things my childhood gave me is a fascination with languages. Growing up I simultaneously had to learn English, Italian, and French and today that fascination serves me well as a Strategic Story Consultant. Learning three languages was a challenge, but it also gave me a love of words. Words are so important; the words you use matter. It’s the words that tell a story, build an idea, explain the complex, make a reasoned case, or provide a compelling call to action.
Words are so important; the words you use matter.
Words are a critical component of communication and I saw the need for strong communication skills right out of the gate. I am from a family of three girls and I am the ham in the sandwich – the middle child. Growing up I had to constantly negotiate with my older sister (she often thought she was the boss of me), and I had to protect and comfort my younger sister who was painfully shy. I also had to clearly communicate with people unfamiliar with my language, customs, and beliefs.
As a young adult, I moved to the United States. I honed my communication skills while working on my undergraduate degree at the University of Texas at Austin and on my graduate degree at the University of Tennessee. I never wanted a job; I wanted a career. I have been fortunate enough to develop a career around my communication skills.
In working with stories, I am constantly searching for the right word and the perfect phrasing to engage the listener, move them to action, and make the story memorable. It was Mark Twain who said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is a very large matter. It is the difference between the lightning and the lightning bug.” I love that quote and I think about it often.
I have lived in several countries and in many cities and states. I moved to Charlotte in 2003 and I am so happy to call this beautiful city home. Charlotte works for me on many levels and I love that fact that it is a designated Tree City. During my first visit to Charlotte, the trees really made an impression on me. These days I often sit out on my deck and listen to the wind whistle through the trees in my back yard. It is one of my favorite sounds.
CBRBiz.com: Has storytelling always been a big part of your life? Is anyone else in your life a storyteller?
Faye Fulton: Yes, storytelling has been an integral part of my life. Growing up in Sicily, I was exposed to people who understand the importance of story and history. Italians are very passionate and articulate people. They are exceedingly proud of their heritage as well as their ancestors and they share those stories. Family stories are very important – they tell us where we come from and they tell us what kind of stock we are made of. In Italy family stories are treasured. To an Italian, it is just as important to pass down stories from generation to generation as it is to pass down the recipe of their grandmother’s Marinara Sauce.
I was fortunate to be exposed to storytellers from all over the world. In my own family, my maternal grandfather (who lived in Texas) was an amazing storyteller. He always carried a pad of paper, the kind with the spiral ring at the top, and a pencil with him. He wrote stories every day, and his stories had a twist – they had to rhyme. I still remember how fun it was helping him come up with the rhyming words; we spent hours finding the perfect words. At night around the dinner table, he would regale us with his stories. It was such an enthralling tradition.
My paternal grandmother (who lived in Maryland) was an exceptional storyteller. She was a person who lived through The Depression and she was the mother of ten children…did she have stories! Consequently, my father is also a terrific storyteller. In a nutshell, I have always been surrounded by storytellers and story is a huge part of my life.
CBRBiz.com: What role do you think storytelling plays in businesses?
Faye Fulton: Story is the 21st Century’s tool for truly effective communication and for anyone who is ready to create impact with their ideas. The best leaders and motivators know they need to be expert storytellers to lead in today’s information-driven and collaborative workplace. Today, being able to communicate well IS your job. Story is a powerful communication tool; however, like any other tool, you must know how to use it.
Data, figures, and charts do not create connection because they don’t contain emotion.
People do not want to be “sold” – that is the workplace of the past. Today professionals need to connect with their peers, customers/clients, boss, donors, etc. To do that, they need to understand how to utilize story in a strategic way. Data, figures, and charts do not create connection because they don’t contain emotion. The key ingredient to story is emotion and, if done correctly, story will allow businesses and professionals to move beyond content to connection.
CBRBiz.com: What do you think is the greatest challenge businesses face when it comes to telling their story, and how can you help them?
Faye Fulton: Their biggest challenge is rethinking story and learning about the types of stories to utilize in the workplace, as well as how to use stories to achieve goals. Most people think they know story…until they try to write one. That’s when they feel like they are trying to ride a bicycle using only one leg. They are completely out-of-balance and their progress is very jerky.
We all love hearing stories and the power of story is abundantly clear as evidenced by the multi-billion dollar industries built around novels, movies, and television. Once professionals are clear that they cannot tell just ANY story, they are on their way to developing a skill. They need amazing, colorful, funny, and dramatic stories that make a powerful point, illustrate their expertise, or sell a product and/or service.
I help business owners and professionals by training them on what story actually entails and how to capture the power of story. Like cooking, effective stories have recipes – or formulas – but they cannot sound or feel formulaic. It’s tricky. Business stories must include the right ingredients – or components; otherwise, like a burnt cake, the outcome will be abysmal and disappointing.
CBRBiz:com: When a business or organization comes to you for help building their story, where do you begin?
Faye Fulton: Today the word “storytelling” has reached buzzword status. That is unfortunate because we have lost the meaning of what story actually is. I always begin by educating my clients as to what “story” means. Almost everyone I meet is exceedingly confused about story, and I’m certain the confusion stems from familiarity. We were introduced to story as young children. When most people think of story, they go right back to their childhood – they think of Cinderella, Pinocchio, or a story like The Three Little Pigs. But those types of stories will not help you in the business world.
When I ask people to give me a definition of story, nine times out of ten they tell me, “Story has a beginning, middle, and an end.” Of course, that doesn’t come close to defining story and even Thanksgiving Dinner has a beginning, middle, and an end. If you don’t understand story, you will be unable to use it to your advantage.
CBRBiz.com: What can businesses expect from one of your workshops?
Faye Fulton: I offer many different story workshops; some are full-day, some are half-day, and some go on for several months. To fully understand the power of story in the business arena and to avoid being overwhelmed, professionals need to involve themselves in a series of workshops spread over a sufficient amount of time.
For a business owner, nonprofit director, major of a city, or any professional to truly understand story, they need to master several skills. I train professionals how to find the correct story, how to craft the story, and how to tell the story. As you can imagine, delivering a story is equally as important as crafting a story. However, if any one of those components is weak, the story will not be engaging and it will not achieve the results you want to get.
Telling the wrong story is worse than telling no story at all. Are you telling the right story? Have you ever changed your opinion of a person, for better or for worse, because of a story you heard them tell? Your stories are directly related to your reputation. How do you want people to think about you and remember you? I am positive you don’t want to be remembered the way our 27th President is remembered – by his girth. Most people are hard-pressed to remember anything other than William Howard Taft was the only US President to get stuck in the White House bathtub.
Telling the wrong story is worse than telling no story at all.
In addition to working on the skills I mentioned above, my workshops include a wealth of information pertaining to using stories in the business world. There are many different types of stories and, among other things, business owners and professionals need to learn what types of stories are effective in the workplace.
CBRBiz.com: Besides offering workshops, do you work with your clients in other ways?
Faye Fulton: Yes, I do a lot of one-on-one work with clients. As a Strategic Story Consultant, I work with individual professionals and that allows me to give focused, personalized attention to them and their story challenges.
My clients decide how they feel most comfortable working on their stories. Some of my clients want to write their own stories and some do not enjoy the process of writing. When I work one-on-one with business owners, power professionals, and entrepreneurs, I am frequently commissioned to write original, customized stories to help grow their businesses, increase marketing results, improve customer satisfaction, and give them a leg up in the interviewing process. When I work one-on-one with professionals in the nonprofit sector, I am frequently commissioned to write original, customized stories to help people connect to their nonprofit’s cause and increase fundraising efforts.
CBRBiz.com: As an entrepreneur yourself, what has been the most rewarding part of starting your own business?
Faye Fulton: I love being a Strategic Story Consultant and helping businesses owners grow their business as well as helping professionals advance their careers through strategic stories. Once I start working with professionals on story, I begin to see the proverbial lightbulb go off above their heads. When that happens, there is no doubt in my mind I was able to help them because they “got it.” That is the most rewarding aspect of the type of work I do. I am honored to be able to help and guide people on their journey of acquiring new knowledge and new communication skills to achieve their goals.
I am also a Professional Storyteller and I am hired to tell stories in many arenas: conferences, business events, fundraisers, churches, festivals, house parties, family reunions, business openings, wineries, etc. As a professional storyteller, I delight in telling my stories and I only tell stories I write myself. When I work as a Professional Storyteller, I am hired to entertain and the stories I tell are very different than strategic stories used in the business world. I tell stories people can identify with and easily comprehend. Some of my stories make the audience laugh out loud and some of my stories bring tears to their eyes.
When a group of people gather together to listen to stories, it creates community; it is a bonding experience and it brings with it understanding as well as empathy. After telling stories, I am so grateful when people share with me that they truly enjoyed my stories; that my stories have meaning. That fills me with pride and a feeling of accomplishment – as a writer and as a storyteller.
CBRBiz.com: Is there anything you’d like to add?
Faye Fulton: I feel privileged to work in the area of communication. I think I surprise people when I tell them I am a Strategic Story Consultant—that field is not oversaturated and there aren’t many of us around. However, my expertise and experience encompass many areas of communication. As I mentioned, I also work as a Professional Storyteller. In addition, I am a Keynote Speaker, Trainer, Writer, a Published Author, and a Ghostwriter.
My next major project is working as a Ghostwriter with a remarkable woman who wants a book about the story of her life. She will be using her story to help teenagers avoid the mistakes and pitfalls she encountered. I cannot image how many lives she will impact, but I know I will love helping her with her story.
Thank you, Faye, for sharing your story so eloquently. To learn more about Faye Fulton, visit her online, follow her on Facebook, and connect with her on LinkedIn. To hear from other local entrepreneurs like Faye, be sure to follow us on Twitter @CBRBiz!