Welcome to the Telling of Story podcast. I’m your host, Storyteller Jewels, and along with my guests, it’s my endeavor to explore the art and science of storytelling to attract, engage, and retain a business audience, and to unpack why it works for some and not for the many that try. In this episode, I have the pleasure of talking with Alison Rogers.

[00:00:25] Jewels: Listen in as she talks about the ordinary.

[00:00:32] Alison Rogers: The thing that really struck me was that often some of the stories that resonated the most were stories about ordinary people in extraordinary situations and stories where there was heart in there, the personal stories. Often, when you’re starting off and you’re trying to put together a program, you want to get the politician of the day to talk about this or that or whatever, but as I became more experienced in [00:01:00] understanding what people wanted, often, people just wanted to hear stories that resonated with them.

[00:01:11] Jewels: In this episode, I have the pleasure of talking with Alison Rogers. Alison has been telling stories and interviewing people for more than 30 years. Her career so far has seen her work as a journalist, radio presenter, spin doctor, yes one of those, author, communications specialist and filmmaker. The one constant throughout her career is her fascination with people.

[00:01:35] Jewels: In 2010 she walked away from the safety of a steady job to start her own business. Living Stories began in the spare room of her Adelaide home in 2010 with a mission to connect people through stories. Alison, welcome 

[00:01:50] Alison Rogers: to the show. Thank you, Jewels! It’s great to be here. 

[00:01:53] Jewels: Alison, tell me a little bit about your first job and the stepping stones thereafter that led [00:02:00] to where you are today.

[00:02:01] Alison Rogers: Okay, so my first proper job, I had shop jobs and dish washing jobs and whatever to sort of help me get through uni, but my first job was, I gained a cadetship with the ABC in Adelaide a long time ago now, back in 1989. I was part way through a journalism degree. And I was very passionate about the idea of being a journalist and I got involved in journalism through studying at the University of Adelaide, I was doing an arts degree and I got involved with the student newspaper and met a bunch of people through the newspaper who all went on to Adelaide.

[00:02:40] Alison Rogers: go and have careers in journalism and I really got bitten by the bug. Unfortunately, spent too much time while I was at uni, um, in the uni bar and working on the student newspaper so my marks didn’t really reflect perhaps what I was capable of and so I, I changed and did a very specific journalism [00:03:00] degree in South Australia at what is now the University of South Australia.

[00:03:04] Alison Rogers: And yeah, partway through that degree, I managed to get a cadetship with the ABC in Adelaide, which was, you know, was really, really excited at the prospect of, of working at the ABC. And I started there in, uh, Yeah, in January 1989, I think it would have been, and it was a, a huge learning curve. And it’s that thing, I think, Jewels, where when you, you study something and you think you know about it, but then when you get into the work environment and you’re actually doing it, you learn exponentially, you learn so much so fast.

[00:03:39] Alison Rogers: And I was, I was in Adelaide for a couple of years. And then I actually applied for a position working in the Hunter Valley, setting up a single journalist bureau in Musselbrook in the Hunter Valley with the ABC. And that was really learning so much because for the first time I was away from home, I was working and living in a regional area.

[00:03:59] Alison Rogers: And, [00:04:00] uh, having to find the news, literally having to go out and find the news. And if I ruled the world, I think I’d make every journalist, every young journalist go out and do that sort of work because that’s where you really learn about reporting and understanding communities. picking up on those stories.

[00:04:18] Alison Rogers: So that was really the first sort of experience where I was getting interested in the idea of stories. You know, I’ve always been curious about people, and I’ve always been interested in the world around me. And I think it’s from that initial curiosity. And the curiosity led to stories. And I have to say, It’s kept my attention ever since.

[00:04:42] Alison Rogers: So tell me 

[00:04:42] Jewels: a bit about the stepping stones beyond then. So you went from storytelling in journalism and then what, what was next after that? Well, 

[00:04:51] Alison Rogers: I worked as a radio news journalist and, you know, if you listen to a radio and you, you know, listen to the ABC, the news, it’s, it’s actually [00:05:00] writing a news story for radio.

[00:05:02] Alison Rogers: It’s pretty formulaic. You’re in fact, Writing a lead. You’re trying to find the lead of the story. Something that’s going to grab people’s attention and, uh, get them listening. Every journalist wants their story to, to lead the news bulletin. And so you’re looking for a way to represent that story that is going to capture people’s interests.

[00:05:22] Alison Rogers: But once you. For me, once I kind of understood how to do it, and I was confident in creating those radio news stories with the, with the audio grabs that you, that you put in there, I guess I was getting a bit restless and looking for, for other things to do. So I, Within the ABC, I started doing longer form reporting for programs.

[00:05:46] Alison Rogers: And I actually, after a few years, maybe two or three years in Musselbrook, I went to Bendigo with the ABC, where they were opening up a new, a new radio station there. And then the woman who was doing [00:06:00] the morning program on the regional network, she took long service leave. They decided to chuck me on air and there is nothing more terrifying than going live to air on radio with your L plates on because there’s really no way to get good at it just by doing it.

[00:06:19] Alison Rogers: You just have to keep going and you have to keep going and, you know, I, um, I have real affection for the people of Northwestern Victoria who would have put up with me, you know, muffing my way through various interviews and, uh, and I guess. That was a, that, that really stretched me and I went on and continued broadcasting.

[00:06:39] Alison Rogers: I ended up, uh, in Melbourne and was a drive presenter for the. Southern New South Wales and regional Victoria. So working out of Melbourne, but presenting across that area. And then I was asked to come back to Adelaide and do the drive time program here on the Metro network. And so it was, um, it was.

[00:06:59] Alison Rogers: Always a bit of [00:07:00] a high wire act. Live radio is a high wire act. It takes a lot of adrenaline and it’s hard work and you’ve got to have people on the radio, either in the studio or on the telephone, saying interesting things to keep people interested and connected. But um, I loved it. I loved the work. But I think by the time I got to Adelaide and after a few years of doing it, I was offered another job and I thought, you know what, I reckon this, this could be easier than, uh, than being a drive time presenter and having to be on the radio every day.

[00:07:33] Alison Rogers: And so I, I was offered a role with Natasha Stott Despoja as her media advisor. And um, I tell you what, I have never been more wrong about anything in my life. Then, um, you know, the ease of going from radio to being a media advisor, a political media advisor. It was probably the hardest job I’ve, I’ve ever had.

[00:07:57] Alison Rogers: Um, six months after I [00:08:00] was Natasha’s media advisor, she became leader of the party. And I was her chief media advisor, the entire party imploded, and I got a very sharp lesson in what it was like to be on the other side of the media, what it was like to deal with journalists. And that was very, very different to being a journalist.

[00:08:19] Alison Rogers: It was a really fascinating experience and I learned a lot about the media and I learned about telling stories from another perspective, you know, telling a story about my boss to, to put her in a good light as well. So it was a fast and furious time. I think it was literally seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

[00:08:41] Alison Rogers: And yeah, regardless, I guess what I did walk away from that role with was a real respect for politicians, which sounds kind of weird. But a lot of them work really hard, they work really long hours, and it is relentless. So I did develop a respect for the politicians and a lot of the staff. [00:09:00] But I must say, it’s interesting looking at what’s been happening in Parliament over the last couple of years.

[00:09:05] Alison Rogers: There was a level of toxicity in there when I was there, and I think, you know, anything that can be done to, uh, to tidy that up, because there’s a lot of… It doesn’t seem to be the best environment to make smart decisions sometimes going back 

[00:09:20] Jewels: to the radio comment there, where you said you had to spend an entire session, whatever that length of time may have been entertaining people, you know, keeping the lights on.

[00:09:32] Jewels: So you’d never, you know, there’s no gaps in radio. There’s no chance to have quiet time. That’s a, you know, mortal sin when it comes to radio, but you also need to keep people entertained. And what did that? experience teach you about storytelling and keeping people’s attention. 

[00:09:48] Alison Rogers: Yeah, the thing that really struck me was that often some of the stories that resonated the most were stories about ordinary people in extraordinary [00:10:00] situations and stories where there was heart in there, the personal stories.

[00:10:04] Alison Rogers: So You know, often when you’re starting off and you’re trying to put together a program, you want to get the politician of the day to talk about this or that or whatever. But as I became more experienced and understanding what people wanted, often people just wanted to hear stories that resonated with them.

[00:10:25] Alison Rogers: So that whole idea about, well, let’s get someone famous on and, and talk to them about their life, that’s fine. But if you can get them to talk about something that is going to relate to people, you know, we’re all got similar interests in some ways. And, you know, one of the segments that I did on the radio that, that went off, people loved it.

[00:10:46] Alison Rogers: It was just getting politicians on. for an extended interview, but they weren’t allowed to talk about politics. They weren’t allowed to talk about anything political. They had to talk about themselves. And it was, um, you know, they had to [00:11:00] play a couple of songs, choose a couple of songs that meant something to them.

[00:11:04] Alison Rogers: And the politicians actually loved it because it gave them an opportunity to show a different side of themselves. And people really enjoyed listening to it because they were. Feeling like they were getting to know that person a bit more. And that was something that was incredibly popular. And I realized that if you’re a consumer of news, if you listen and absorb the news a lot, it’s pretty grim at times.

[00:11:29] Alison Rogers: You know, really you can’t avoid the fact that news generally is made up of bad stuff that happens. So, you know, there’s gotta be light and shade in there and you’ve got to give people something, you know, the things that often resonate. Uh, uh, really kind of a bit trivial in some ways, but they’re important.

[00:11:47] Alison Rogers: And I think as I’ve progressed in my work with stories, particularly more recently with living stories, it’s really about connection. And in fact, if I went back and did radio again, I think I’d probably do it [00:12:00] quite a bit differently to how I did it because I was coming from a very heavy sort of current affairs focus.

[00:12:05] Alison Rogers: Because that’s, that’s what we were doing. It was current affairs. It was all about breaking news. Whereas I’m not so sure. I think you can do it in another way. I think you can keep people informed and I think there’s room for intelligent storytelling that maybe is a bit more, has a bit more heart in it, a bit more connection.

[00:12:22] Alison Rogers: without dumbing it down. It’s a difficult balance because you can then go to the sort of human interest stories, fluffy dog stories, that sort of thing. But I think all of us are looking for connection and stories are one of the best ways of providing it. 

[00:12:37] Jewels: I love stories as you can imagine and I love that idea of humanizing the politicians as well.

[00:12:45] Jewels: I tell that to my business people often as well that, you know, if you’re just there trying to sell, sell, sell, they don’t really get to understand you and why you’re doing something and to get somebody to really [00:13:00] Have some depth and of knowledge of where you’ve come from and what you’re trying to achieve.

[00:13:04] Jewels: It’s those personal stories that are going to do it. It’s not, you know, the product or service. It’s not how good you, you’ve managed to cobble something together. It’s really about the heart that you’ve put behind it. And a lot of that learning or a lot of that connection comes from those stories rather than anything to do with a particular product or service.

[00:13:23] Jewels: I love the idea of humanising politicians and I think we could all learn a little bit. From that as well, take me back to, you mentioned when you were a journalist doing the paper sort of version of it, that there was a bit of a formula to writing, to capturing somebody’s attention. Tell me about that formula.

[00:13:41] Jewels: What are the steps to, you know, grabbing that attention and keeping that for? 

[00:13:45] Alison Rogers: So, and I, I mean, I was talking about writing for radio news. So the, you know, the 10 o’clock news, the 11 o’clock news, the midday news, whatever. So really the formula, what you’re trying to do. A news story that gets a big run [00:14:00] is a story that is going to have impact on people.

[00:14:03] Alison Rogers: That’s what we’re looking for. So it’s often when I talk to people about news and the nature of news, it’s like, well, how is it that this story is all over the place, yet this other story isn’t seen as very important? But my training and my belief is that It’s all about impact. And it might be there, you know, so there are obvious stories if there’s a massive bushfire, if there’s something that impacts on a lot of people, that’s a big story.

[00:14:29] Alison Rogers: But also, there are stories that have an emotional impact. And sometimes they are more powerful than the big news stories, if you like. So When you’re writing the lead of a news story, you are looking for a way to make that story as relevant as possible to your listener. And, you know, there are some stories, for instance, you think back to the story about the young Thai boys that were caught in the cave.

[00:14:57] Alison Rogers: And that story, that was a [00:15:00] massive story worldwide. Now, in terms of actually the relevance to you or I, Jewels, What happened to those boys was not actually going to affect our lives. But we were all there. We were all there with those boys and their coach and the team that was trying to get them out because it was a what if scenario.

[00:15:22] Alison Rogers: We were emotionally invested in it because we were thinking, imagine what it would be like to be stuck in this cave for days and days on end. Imagine what it would be like to try and get these kids out. Are they going to find them? Are they not going to find them? And I think that story is One of those stories where it’s a what if story.

[00:15:42] Alison Rogers: What if I was in that situation? Imagine what that would be like. And in that way, imagine if I was a parent of one of those children. There’s a connection there, which means it is a story that has a massive impact, but it’s an emotional impact. It’s not an actual impact that is going to affect our [00:16:00] lives.

[00:16:00] Alison Rogers: And sometimes… I mean, there’s not a set formula, which means it’s always going to be, you’ve always nailed the story. Sometimes it’s unpredictable. Sometimes it’s the time and the place and what else is happening. There may be other factors that then contribute to the story being a big story. But yeah, often you’re looking for impact.

[00:16:19] Alison Rogers: You’re looking for things that are. Relatable, I suppose, to other people. Things that are, you know, things that we can get. If it’s too complex, if it’s not an experience that we can understand or that we can relate to, then it’s very hard to communicate that story. I’m really interested in the Kathleen Folbig story at the moment because I was, that Singleton was, was part of my patch when I was in the Upper Hunter and that case hadn’t…

[00:16:47] Alison Rogers: happened. She hadn’t been charged when I was there, but I, you know, and I’m very interested to see how the media is dealing with what is an incredibly complex case. And especially in explaining [00:17:00] the scientific work that has gone into exonerating her. But it’s a great example of a story that now has captured people.

[00:17:08] Alison Rogers: And, you know, mark my word, Jewels, there’s going to be a film about it. There’s bound to be a film about it, because it’s an amazing story. And she sounds like an extraordinary character as well. And you can’t help think, imagine, imagine losing those four children and then being jailed for 20 years and being labelled a murderer.

[00:17:27] Alison Rogers: Like, It’s an extraordinary story. She was an ordinary, her life was pretty traumatic beforehand, but it really is a story that you can’t help but be engaged by. And the media is going to run with it because they know people are interested. For 

[00:17:42] Jewels: those perhaps that aren’t local, could you just explain in a couple of sentences what that case is about?

[00:17:47] Jewels: So Kathleen 

[00:17:48] Alison Rogers: Folbig was a woman, a mother, who over the course of a number of years, All four of her children died quite young. The first one died at age [00:18:00] 19 days and then the second one, I haven’t got the exact details, but they all died. The youngest one lived to be about 19 or 20 months and then she also died and she kept some diaries and her husband.

[00:18:15] Alison Rogers: Became suspicious and believed that she had actually murdered the children. They were originally considered, um, sudden infant death syndrome deaths. And she’s been in jail for 20 years. And over time, a large number of scientists, around 100 scientists have been working because That the whole case was circumstantial and the scientists have been working to understand what happened to these children.

[00:18:41] Alison Rogers: And they’ve actually found out that in the case of two of them, there was a genetic abnormality that meant that they died of a cardiac arrhythmia, that their hearts basically stopped. So the science has uncovered the causes of the death. Over a period of time and the other two they’ve also now [00:19:00] worked out that there were reasons why those children died and it was just a really unfortunate and very rare genetic condition for two of those children.

[00:19:07] Alison Rogers: So this is a story she’s been pardoned and released from jail just in the last few days. So it’s a story that’s very much resonating in Australia. 

[00:19:16] Jewels: So it’s a story that’s evolved over 20 years as well. So it’s a very long story and I think everybody. Uh, at least locally has some, uh, I guess, opinion perhaps on, you know, guilty or not guilty, but it’s interesting, I think, how the science is starting to catch up to what’s occurring and it will be interesting, like, as you say, how it starts to unravel.

[00:19:41] Jewels: The judicial system and, you know, the presumption of innocence and there’s quite a lot riding on, on the outcomes of this and I think it’s going to take years still to, to play out. 

[00:19:53] Alison Rogers: The implications are huge and then you’ve really got challenge of. The law getting up [00:20:00] to date with the science and the progression in science that is happening at the moment is just so rapid that it’s to try and make it understandable to, for instance, a jury is a big challenge.

[00:20:12] Alison Rogers: But I think it’s an extraordinary story and I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more about Kathleen Folby. Roll 

[00:20:19] Jewels: forward for me, if you don’t mind, Living Stories, tell me a little bit about your current occupation and what it is you’re trying to do. 

[00:20:27] Alison Rogers: So Living Stories actually started because of a conversation.

[00:20:31] Alison Rogers: I was working, after I finished working for Natasha, I didn’t really want to talk to another journalist again and ended up working in PR and marketing for a company here in Adelaide and I did that for a number of years, but was, was getting to a point where I really wanted to return to my passion of, of just focusing on stories and storytelling.

[00:20:51] Alison Rogers: And I had a conversation with a man who ran nursing homes. He was telling me how often he goes to funerals, which I guess if you run a nursing home, that’s. That’s [00:21:00]probably not that unusual. But he said, you know, the thing that really amazes me is how often I’ll talk to the son or the daughter of the person that’s died at the funeral.

[00:21:09] Alison Rogers: And they will have found out all this information about their mum or dad that they never knew. From the time of the death to the time of the funeral, family, friends come together, they start telling stories. And the children often realise that there’s a whole lot. About their mum or dad that they don’t know and they never ask questions, you know, and so there’d often be a real regret of, oh, I wish I’d asked dad more about why he decided to do X or I wish I’d asked mum more about this or whatever.

[00:21:38] Alison Rogers: And as soon as he said that to me, I thought, wow, I wonder if I offered a service where I go in and interview people, get them to reflect on their lives, film them, and then package up these films with photos. I don’t know. And, uh, other documents, if they’ve got any film VHS footage or, [00:22:00] or Super 8 or anything like that.

[00:22:01] Alison Rogers: And actually create something that is a biographical or an autobiographical film that essentially is a character sketch on this person, a character portrait. You know, what is it? Who is this person? What makes them tick? What are the events that have shaped them? And then they’ve got this, this film. That they can share with their family, and that can act as a conversation starter so that some of those conversations happen.

[00:22:31] Alison Rogers: So, so that’s where it started. And as you said, I was, uh, I started off in the spare room at home by myself, trying to put it all together. And over time the business has, has grown and we do a number of sorts of stories. Now it’s, it’s about, I guess, responding to the market and what people want. So we do those stories and generally they’re on older folk, maybe in their seventies, eighties, nineties.

[00:22:58] Alison Rogers: talking about their lives. [00:23:00] Nine times out of ten, I’ll go and meet them and they’ll say, uh, I don’t have much of a story really, but, uh, you know, my kids want me to do this, so I’ll, I’ll do it to humor them. It’s kind of amazing because they always have a story. Yeah. One lady who’d had nine children and said, Oh, I haven’t really done much with my life, but you know, I’ll do this for the kids.

[00:23:22] Alison Rogers: And I said, you’ve had nine children. That’s a pretty significant kind of contribution to make. So that’s where living stories started. And as I said, there’s a range of different things we do now. We do those stories, which are pretty highly edited. Like usually I’ll do a number of interviews and then we’ll edit it together.

[00:23:42] Alison Rogers: The other thing that I do that is very different to my journalism days is that once we’ve got a rough cut version of the story, so we’ve got the story structure, but we haven’t necessarily put everything on it to make it look pretty. I’ll take that rough cut version to the person who is the [00:24:00] interviewee, whose story it is.

[00:24:01] Alison Rogers: And I’ll show it to them and then if there’s anything in there that they’re unhappy with or if there’s something in the interview that we’ve talked about that they want me to put in that we haven’t put in, that’s completely fine. So it’s, it’s very much a collaborative process because it’s about their life.

[00:24:18] Alison Rogers: And, you know, people are incredibly generous with what they are sharing with me. And. I don’t want to put them in a position where perhaps something is revealed that in hindsight they kind of wish hadn’t been revealed or they missed something. So I’ll give you an example. So I had a gentleman who was, he was turning 80 and his friends grouped together to, to get a living story done.

[00:24:45] Alison Rogers: We talked a lot about his life and he very much focused on his professional life. And then at one stage I asked him if there was anything he’d done in his life that he regretted or which he’d done differently. And he said, Oh. I wish I’d handled my [00:25:00] midlife crisis differently, but I don’t want to talk about that.

[00:25:03] Alison Rogers: And then he went on to tell me about how he’d met another woman and left his wife and done that thing, and that he wasn’t particularly proud of it. When it came to the edit. I made a decision to leave that story in the film. I said, well, I’ll show it to him and he will either say, take it out or not. So I took the film to him and I showed it to him.

[00:25:25] Alison Rogers: He watched the entire thing and he was like, yeah, yeah, I’m really happy with that. That’s fine. And I said, what about the midlife crisis story? Because he didn’t actually want me to, you know, to use that. And he said. No, no, I’m happy, leave it in, leave it in. Three months later, he rang me and he said, you know that, that film?

[00:25:45] Alison Rogers: I said, yeah, yeah, I know the film. He said, I want you to know that my grandson, who I think was about 19 years old, my grandson’s watched that film four times now. And it has changed our relationship, because [00:26:00] he doesn’t see me as the old fart that sits in the rocking chair anymore. And he did actually have a rocking chair.

[00:26:05] Alison Rogers: He doesn’t see me as that anymore. He sees me, he’s got my backstory. He’s, like, we’re having conversations that I never thought we’d have. And to me, That’s a way of showing how stories can build a bridge between generations, between cultures. You know, in so many ways, if you can walk in someone else’s shoes or see the world through someone else’s eyes for a little while, it makes the communication and the relationship so much richer.

[00:26:32] Alison Rogers: So that’s what we do. But we also do stories. We’ve done work with people that have got terminal illnesses, who have decided that they really want to get some stuff down before they pass away, or before they’re unable to really communicate well. So that’s, um, clearly, you know, very sensitive work, but people are very, very grateful to be able to do, to do that, and have some control over [00:27:00] it as well, because I think that’s really important from my perspective.

[00:27:03] Alison Rogers: And then we also do stories where people actually want to bring someone to life who perhaps has died, but through their memories, it might be, you know, a parent. And then you’ve got the children who want to sort of tell the story of that parent for their children, because they might’ve never met them. So through, through stories, we build the cat, we, we build a, a sense of who that person is and what they were like, and I don’t know a better way to do it.

[00:27:31] Alison Rogers: Jewels, then to tell stories, what other way, you know, and once that person is gone, so you’ve lost it, so much has gone. So, the other thing that I find really interesting is often people will, families will contact us because we’ve been doing this since 2010, and families will contact us. When their, their mum or dad does pass away and they just are so, you know, like we’re so grateful.

[00:27:56] Alison Rogers: We’re so glad that we did this because this film, [00:28:00] which is a nice to have when their mum or dad is still alive, all of a sudden becomes so precious when, uh, when they no longer have them with them. So that’s one side of what we do. The other side of what we do is working with organizations and institutions and businesses to tell stories for them.

[00:28:18] Alison Rogers: But very much focused on those personal stories because like you, I believe the best way to connect with people is through those personal stories. You know, if someone’s got an amazing product, I want to understand how that happened and what drew them to it and why they did it. I don’t want to know the specifications of the product, you know, and I think when people make a decision, when they make a decision about buying or purchasing, if they can relate to the person who’s behind it.

[00:28:46] Alison Rogers: That’s probably going to be a much stronger selling prospect than all the bells and whistles. I think for most people anyway. 

[00:28:54] Jewels: Living story sounds like an amazing business. I wish I had have done the same. My [00:29:00] parents had a fabulous story. They emigrated from Italy back in the fifties as one of those, one of the early generations that came across on a boat.

[00:29:09] Jewels: They had an amazing sort of backstory, an amazing sort of love story that sort of brought them together and ultimately brought them over here to Australia together. They had an amazing story landing in a country that they didn’t have any, they didn’t speak English. They had no job. They came here with very little and had to work their way up.

[00:29:31] Jewels: So the backstories were amazing. And my, my brother, actually, I had two brothers. One’s passed since past, but my middle brother elder to me. Did spend some time with my father with a tape recorder. So he passed away 20 years ago now, but before then he managed to actually capture some of those stories, which has been fantastic because a lot of it.

[00:29:53] Jewels: We never spoke about, as you say, like you did, you don’t necessarily hear a lot of those backstories. [00:30:00] And it was particularly difficult to sort of have any sort of sense of timeline as well. You, you knew snippets of bits of information, but you know, there were kind of big gaps in between. So it was, it’s been good to relive those stories with my brother to understand a bit of that backstory.

[00:30:16] Jewels: Cause my father passed away well before my children were born, or actually just before my first was born. And now my mother’s since passed as well. So the, having those stories that live on, I think is tremendous, especially though. You know, that generation had such an amazing life, difficult as it was. It was very varied.

[00:30:36] Jewels: It was, had lots of ups and downs and lots of challenges, and they were just fascinating stories. They didn’t really want to share them because sometimes they were a bit embarrassed, I think, to some degree, but they were just fascinating. 

[00:30:47] Alison Rogers: I think you’re right. It’s a generation that isn’t about, they don’t blow their own trumpet.

[00:30:52] Alison Rogers: You know, they’re not comfortable talking about all the things they’ve done. They just got on with it. And one of the things, there’s a [00:31:00] couple of things because I often have conversations with people where they have an intention to record their mum or dad’s story. And I’m always like, go for it, do it, you know, please sit down and have those deeper conversations.

[00:31:13] Alison Rogers: Because As children, we are pretty sort of absorbed in, you know, it’s hard to think of your mum or dad as a human being that isn’t your mum or dad and all the other things that they’ve done. But you know, Jewels, as a father, as a parent, there’s a whole lot to you apart from being a dad. Like that’s very important part of it, but there’s, there’s a whole lot more.

[00:31:34] Alison Rogers: I think the other thing around. Talking to your parents, the one thing I will say, and I’ve interviewed my own mum to put some stuff together, but I know, I’m her daughter, she’ll self edit, she’s not going to tell me everything because I’m her daughter, and so I do say to people that sometimes it’s good to get someone in who hasn’t got an agenda, like a kind of someone who can just do the interview and then work with [00:32:00] the person to put it together.

[00:32:02] Alison Rogers: One of the things that I learned about doing this work, when I first started, I thought it’s a service for families. This is what I’m offering. It’s a service for families. And what I realized over time was, as I said to you before, often the conversation, that initial conversation about making a film about someone would start with them being quite bashful and, oh, I don’t really want to do this, but I’ll do it.

[00:32:26] Alison Rogers: But then as we went through the process, as we go through the process. I’m asking questions, and to me, what’s the secret of a good interview? It’s, it’s active listening. You’ve got to give them your full attention. And for, for, for people to give, get full attention, that, that’s a bit of a gift. And particularly for older people who might not often have an opportunity to have some of those deeper conversations.

[00:32:49] Alison Rogers: So what I noticed was that they start off being quite reticent and reluctant, but doing it under sufferance, if you like. And then as we go through it. [00:33:00] They actually get engaged and they start really enjoying the conversations. And then by the time we get to the point where they see a version of the film, apart from the fact that they find it excruciating to watch themselves on film, which everyone does, I think.

[00:33:15] Alison Rogers: I don’t, I’m not, I’ve never met anyone who’s said, gee, I look good, don’t I? Most people, most of us can’t really cope with how we appear on film. But once they get over that. In terms of the, of the actual film, invariably the comments will be along the line of, gee, I have done some stuff, haven’t I? Wow, I didn’t realize how much I have done in my life.

[00:33:36] Alison Rogers: And it’s almost like a bit of a reckoning. And people seem to walk a little taller, you know, it does something for your self esteem. And once the film is complete. Often the family will have a celebration, like they’ll have a little bit of a, you know, red carpet launch or a, or an event where they screen the film for the first time.

[00:33:54] Alison Rogers: And so what it means is that you’re celebrating that person, you’re recognizing them, and you’re [00:34:00] enjoying them while they’re there. And for me, that’s fundamental. I mean, yes, these pieces are legacy pieces as well. But for me, the real value is, is enjoying and getting the most out of that loved one while you’ve still got them.

[00:34:13] Alison Rogers: What a 

[00:34:13] Jewels: gift. I think it’s an amazing service that you’re offering. Tell me about, you also mentioned you work with organizations to bring out their stories, right? And you and I agree that telling stories about the product and service will only get you so far, that the human side of the business and The leaders and, and people that sort of brought it together is, is what really differentiates one product or one company from the next.

[00:34:38] Jewels: What advice would you give to anyone listening that is probably perhaps stuck in their product and service a little bit too much and maybe a bit fearful of, of sharing their personal stories? What advice would you give to somebody and, and to what length should people go to draw out these stories and, and even how should they tell them?

[00:34:59] Jewels: There’s a few [00:35:00] questions there, 

[00:35:00] Alison Rogers: sorry. That’s okay, that’s fine. I think that a lot of people instinctively are uncomfortable about sharing themselves and opening up about their own, perhaps, personal life. I’m not suggesting that you go out and put it all out there, but I think, you know, for me, so for instance, that story I told you about how the business started.

[00:35:21] Alison Rogers: That story works for me a treat because as soon as I tell people that story, they instantly get what I do and what it’s about. There’s no misunderstanding, you know, if I didn’t use that story and someone said, so tell me about what you do, Alison. And I said, well, I create films that are autobiographical.

[00:35:43] Alison Rogers: Oh, so what do you get paid? Who pays you to do that? How does that work? But that story just instantly kind of brings you into what it’s about and how it works. And I think that when it comes to running a business, invariably there’s a story there. There’s [00:36:00] always a story. What’s motivated you? How did you get there?

[00:36:03] Alison Rogers: You don’t have to reveal a lot about your personal life. And I mean, if you want to, that’s fine. But I think you need to think about how people are going to understand the idea and the reasoning behind your business and what you’re trying to do. Because the only thing that is unique about your business is you in some ways, you know, like you can have many, many businesses that are selling a similar widget or offering a similar service.

[00:36:31] Alison Rogers: What’s going to differentiate your business from someone else’s business? It’s probably what you bring to it. So I’m always interested as a purchaser, I am always interested to understand the person behind it and what they’re offering and what’s motivating them because I can make some pretty quick judgments about.

[00:36:50] Alison Rogers: Whether they’re someone that I would like to spend my money with or whether I think they’re going to be able to give me the service that I’m after based on their experience. And I think, [00:37:00] you know, for running your own business is incredibly challenging. Like, yes, this is a great business and I’m very privileged and lucky to have it.

[00:37:09] Alison Rogers: But, gee, it’s hard work and it’s hard work, I think, for everyone, especially in this economic climate at the moment. It’s tough going. But I think particularly post COVID, people are craving connection, you know, some level of communication and connection. And I, you know, one of the things that worries me with social media is that it’s very easy for people to kind of go into their silos and be surrounded by all the opinions that agree with them and, and, and everyone’s in furious agreement with themselves.

[00:37:38] Alison Rogers: And we’re not necessarily, you know, we get more and more isolated in our little, little pockets. And I feel like As a business and as a business person, it will be uncomfortable to put yourself out there, but it doesn’t hurt to look at those questions. Why did I start this business? Why am I doing this?

[00:37:55] Alison Rogers: What am I trying to do? What’s motivating me? Start thinking about those questions [00:38:00] and develop a story around it. 

[00:38:03] Jewels: Alison, you and I could talk about stories forever, I can imagine. As a parting sort of gift to those listening, perhaps, if you’re on that early part of the journey, where do I find some of those cool stories and what format is a good place to start?

[00:38:18] Jewels: Where would you take me? From a business perspective, let’s say I’m a business owner and I’m reluctant, well, I haven’t. Ventured down the storytelling path, you know, I’m very good at what I do perhaps, but I don’t tell any personal stories and I don’t venture that way. But I recognize that it is a good place to be and something that I should be trying to do more of.

[00:38:38] Jewels: What advice would you give somebody who’s sort of in at that early stage? And how do I find those, some of those initial stories? How do I tell that story? Where do I tell that story? How would you point somebody in the right direction? 

[00:38:50] Alison Rogers: Okay, so for someone who is a little bit shy or uncertain or unsure, the first thing I would suggest they do is to talk to [00:39:00] someone they know, like a friend or a loved one, someone that they know and trust, and say, look, this is, ask me some questions about my business.

[00:39:08] Alison Rogers: Ask me about. Why I’m doing this and how it came about, like do it with someone who’s friendly, who, and actually work together to try and think of the things that actually resonate, like as you’re talking, your friend, your person who you can bounce the ideas off will go, Oh, that’s interesting. Oh, you should keep that bit, you know, and actually, actually think about it and try it on someone else.

[00:39:33] Alison Rogers: Because, you know, you want to try it on another pair of ears, not your own, in some ways. And I think there is nothing wrong with actually being quite thoughtful about what is your story and what are the elements that once again people are going to relate to. So that story that I tell about people going to funerals and having those regrets, I mean, every word of that story is true.

[00:39:57] Alison Rogers: But it’s really relatable because [00:40:00] every time I tell it, people remember going to a funeral and hearing the eulogy and going, Oh my goodness, I didn’t know that about that person. I didn’t know that. So it’s about finding those touch points where people go, Oh yeah, I’ve been in that situation. I understand that.

[00:40:16] Alison Rogers: So that’s what you’re looking for. That’s really, really important. Where do you use the stories? Wherever you can, you know, like when you’re talking to people about your business, when you’re. It should be on your website. It should be, you should have, you know, in the About Us, or How We Started, our story.

[00:40:35] Alison Rogers: You know, have a bit about this, about, because I tell you what, people will read that bit, because everyone’s interested in a story. So, I think you just, in terms of other media. You know, like I’ve met some people who’ve got hugely successful businesses that it’s all word of mouth and they don’t do any kind of social media work.

[00:40:53] Alison Rogers: Others spend a whole lot of time and energy and I think that’s more about your skill set and what you’re able to [00:41:00] do because we know with social media that when you start doing it, To do it well, you’ve got to be constant and if you’re running a business and it’s just you, that’s a big, big thing to do.

[00:41:10] Alison Rogers: So you need to work out your channels, what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. But my one tip is find the bits of your story that people relate to and test it on other people and see if they go, Oh yeah, I know what that feels like. I know what that feels like. And then you can workshop that and form it into a story that is going to work for you and your business.

[00:41:30] Jewels: Alison, fabulous advice. Thank you so much for joining me today. Where can the listeners find out a little bit more about you and perhaps about living stories? 

[00:41:40] Alison Rogers: Well, we, uh, we are on the web, so if you put Living Stories and Allison in there, you’ll find us in your search engine living stories.net au. We also are on Facebook and on Instagram and we have little reels, little examples of some of the work we’ve done.

[00:41:58] Alison Rogers: Just very cut down [00:42:00] so you can have a look and, and get a sense of, of what we do. Living stories. Australia, I think is Instagram and living stories for Facebook, but always happy to talk to people and we go anywhere to do these sorts of stories and interviews as well. So yeah, just hugely passionate in the way stories can connect and make a real difference in people’s lives.

[00:42:23] Alison Rogers: So thank you so much for the opportunity, Jewels. I’ve really enjoyed talking with 

[00:42:27] Jewels: you. You’re welcome. And I do love your story and backstory and thank you so much for sharing. Absolute pleasure.

[00:42:39] Jewels: I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with Alison, there was lots to learn, but something that stood out more than anything else, tell your personal stories to share with the next generation before it’s too late. Much love, chat soon.

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