business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

United Airlines has created a new title and role at corporate headquarters, as it focuses on a strategy that it thinks increasingly is necessary in today's cluttered media environment.

Chief Storyteller.

The job has gone to Dana Brooks Reinglass, who used to be an executive producer for Oprah Winfrey-owned Harpo Studios. Her job will be to "oversee the airline's internal and external social media and digital communications," the Chicago Tribune reports.

Jim Olsen, United's senior vice president of corporate communications, says that the goal is to get people to see "the new, united United" differently.

"The idea is using stories to give employees and customers a window seat to how we're doing things and changing things and making a positive difference," he says. "Data points are important proof points, but what's really interesting to people and what they remember are stories ... ... It's a little bit of a mindset shift in how we communicate internally and externally."

The Tribune notes that United is not the first company to institutionalize the storyteller role; others that have done it include Microsoft, IBM, Verizon and enterprise software company SAP.

Reinglass says in a prepared statement that "in this digital age of immersion and participation, I still feel that sharing your story inspires the most powerful emotions and moves people to action."

In this case, booking a seat on United instead of on another airline. It won't replace such requirements as competent pilots, on-time performance, luggage that gets to where it is supposed to, friendly flight attendants, and reasonably comfortable seats. But if the people within the company understand that how they they do their jobs and interact with customers both reflects and shapes the company's story - and affects the degree to which United is successful and their jobs continue to exist - then perhaps they will approach their work with greater engagement.

It is a lesson that many businesses can and should learn.

In a phrase, it is an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: