Enemy of boredom; friend of your story
When we designed our logo last year I wanted it to express three important things about our philosophy of communication.
First, it uses the figure of a hunter, painted on a cave wall about 4000 B.C.
In the original the hunter is carrying a bow but since he’s looking backward it’s hard to say whether he was charging his prey or running away from it. We dropped the bow because I am interested in the hunter, not his technology. The hunter is at once a story, and a storyteller. He is living the story, and telling it. He paints his story on the cave wall, and is shown leaving the cave to continue the hunt. Perhaps in the next frame he triumphed over a mammoth. Perhaps in the next reel he was stampeded by 1000 elephants, or fell asleep on a log and dreamt he was a crocodile. Maybe he mastered arrowheads at Holocene High, and became the inventor of hollow tips, or smoked the arrows without inhaling. Or fell in love with a woman who started a cave furnishings store called Wall-Mart. We simply don’t know. But we care, because he’s a human, and therefore his story, every story, is quite interesting.
The second value we hold as communicators
is the notion that we too must be hunters. Participants in the dialog and the chase, the quest and the questions.
To do that job well, we have to stalk, surprise, and overcome the forces of boredom that are constantly trying to make your story appear normal, banal, and irritatingly trivial. But the tools we use to dispatch this prey are carefully chosen. We do not, as a rule, use landslides of effects or bombs of bombast to shock our way into the audience’s mind, as though we were invading through the backs of their eyeballs.
Nor do we tickle the sex switch to gain access through the back of the brain stem. The only authentic, ethical way to defeat boredom is to attract the interest of the viewer through shared values. Important activities. Compelling narratives. The real power is in your story. By showing respect, engaging in dialog, reflecting an interest in the audience, displaying a sensitivity for what the watcher feels, the audience freely chooses to pay attention. They pay you the compliment of spending their time and listening to your story.
And so the third principle of our communications approach is friendship.
We are the friends of your story. What do friends do? They listen, they care, they understand, they accept, and they become your advocate with others. By becoming the friend of your story, we can not only help tell it without boredom, we can also increase its chances of acceptance, add value to the brand, create relationships with audiences that can build trust and ultimately lead to greater influence.
When I say “influence”, I do not mean projections of media power that translate into awareness. I mean acceptance and pursuit by appropriate audiences, who assimilate your message or your product into their lives because it appeals to them and solves their problems. True influence, in this sense, flows from the audience to you, not from you to the audience. They grant you influence for that moment … not the other way around.
Like all true friendships, the partnership we forge in communicating your story is a relationship that is personal and unique; so we chose to symbolize that with the thumbprint in our logo. Stories are interesting because they are unique, and compelling because we see our own experience reflected in them. We hope our life experiences help provide you with the mirror you need to reflect your story wherever it needs and wants to go.
About the Ztoryteller founder
Stories are what happen when characters meet challenges. To me, both are interesting: the characters, and the challenges.
Right now is a particularly momentous time in my life, as my wife and I emerge from our own personal Road Revolution… having closed down a hobby farm and Ohio business, and moved to Seattle to relearn, retool, re-invent. The constant for both of us is our love of people and their stories.
One of the advantages I’ve enjoyed professionally over the years has been my immersion in the contemporary youth culture through admissions marketing efforts. I hope to share my perspectives on how to communicate with authenticity to this critically important market niche: the newest cool cohort, who now define cool for all of us.
I’ve also been very lucky to be exposed to major businesses at exciting times in their evolution. Nestle Ice Cream when it was buying Carnation and Drumstick, and rolling out all kinds of new brands and chasing manufacturing process improvement; URS as it was becoming a national player in architecture; Digital as it was facing a revolution in the computer industry; Owens-Illinois as it was making big decisions in a KKR takeover.
I’ve also been very lucky to have worked with truly brilliant men and women and been able to question them about their values and business decisions. Michael Eisner both during and after his chairmanship of Disney; George Bodenheimer, the President of ESPN; Senator Richard Lugar, who spoke at length about his work with Sam Nunn on nuclear arms elimination.
To consistently reach people of any age with a message — what, so what, and why — is like making lightning strike twice. Way harder than bottling lightning bugs, which I used to do as a kid. Hopefully the process of writing a reflective blog will serve to help me sharpen my reflections on what works and what doesn’t. So if you’re into recruiting, or fundraising, or marketing or branding for any serious enterprise — college, non-profit, NGO, or B2B communication, I think you’ll find some useful ideas on these pages.
Social media are reinventing the storytelling tools that have worked since men started writing on cave walls. I want to join the resulting dialog — whether via internet or twitter or whatever else comes next. Not because I care about the technologies involved, but because I care about ideas and the people who express them. And the kinds of ideas I care most about fall under the categories of ecology, economics, communication — the human condition, and the planet we live on.
Thank you for investigating Ztoryteller, or simply stopping by to read and share your ideas about communication, stories, and authenticity.