Marketing & Media Leaders on the Current State of Storytelling
Research shows that now more than ever, brands need to lead with purpose, as people are relying on them to provide an escape, community, and utility during times of isolation. We spoke with thought leaders at our The State of the Story event to see how they set the long-term strategy when speaking with their audiences in an authentic, honest manner.
In this climate, marketers have been challenged to navigate through enormous uncertainty and a rapidly changing landscape. Consumers are practicing social distancing, adopting new routines, shifting their priorities, and leaning heavily into the digital world. They want to hear from brands who are humane, caring, and community-focused.
We spoke with thought leaders at our The State of the Story event to see how they set the long-term strategy when speaking with their audiences in an authentic, honest manner. Here's a look into our conversations.
At Refinery29, you have redefined what P.O.V. stands for. You say that brands not only have to own their Point of View, they also need to embrace their Power of Vulnerability. What can embracing vulnerability do to help a brand?
“The power of vulnerability can be good for business as long as you see it through the lens of allyship. Understanding where we have a creative safe space to have conversations is key. [At Refinery29,] we don't have a strategy where we lead with ‘how are we going to make a buck?’. We lead with: ‘How are we going to connect with audiences? How are we going to help shift culture? What are we seeing the audience do, and how are we going to help amplify that?’”
What is something you are noticing large brands fail at, whether it’s delivering brand purpose, happiness, or even reaching the community that’s looking for those things?
“I think brands market to who they think we are, rather than to who we actually are. You hear brands talk about ‘authenticity’, but when you start talking about ‘authenticity’, you’re no longer being authentic – you’re selling ‘authenticity’.
Bring more people into leadership [positions, representing] diverse voices, class, gender, race, whatever, all of those things. Bring them into a room, and then listen. That's how you’re going to tell a story that is well done.”
From your perspective as a creative director at Greenhouse and a creative in the world today - what is the current state of the story?
“In the context of storytelling, brands, and community, I think that the state of the story is: how do all of these things co-exist? There’s a lot of positive things that come from brands’ participation in issues and causes; however, there’s also a lot of negative things that come out of that. I don’t know if that balance has been struck necessarily.
For me, the key thing that it comes down to is responsibility. Ultimately, brands have a responsibility to the causes, initiatives, or the topics they want to involve themselves with. They have a responsibility to tell stories – meaning there’s a value exchange. A brand has to contribute something, not just get the benefit from it. A brand can contribute it’s platform and it’s reach to amplify voices that might not have that amplification otherwise, which is a good value exchange. However, I don’t know if it's always working out that way.”
What is the most important concept for businesses to keep in mind as they continue to grow?
“I think as storytellers we have to be guardians of the truth. Now, we might make the truth as pretty as possible and put it in the best light. So it looks as great as possible, but it's still the truth. Right?
And I think that stewards and guardians of the truth are really important. I repeat that to my team all the time because I think it's so important for us to always be painting an authentic vision that we truly believe is a vision that we're marching towards now.
And I think that if you do that no matter what happens with your company (because, let's face it, start-ups are, they are high risk, high reward), you'll be able to hold your head high. I think you will feel proud of the work that you have done, if you have been truthful and authentic, and it's hard to do. But it's important to try to do that.”
How is The State of the Story reflected in our society?
“I think The State of the Story right now outside of brands is very interesting – I think it’s a reflection of who we are as people. People are definitely expressing themselves in stories. I just had a conversation with someone, a very deep one, about the state of the world, and he said:
"The stories that we’re seeing are reflections of who we are so we can move forward, but it’s a better reflection [than who we actually are, as people]."
Obviously, it’s a way for people to connect, and for the world to get along and move forward.”
Storytelling is innate in humans; it is what connects us and allows relationships to bloom. Effectively using this medium allows for consumers and businesses to become more than that. In a time when our connections and relationships define us, it is necessary to move past the business into a space where we can really join together.
By utilizing these five themes, businesses can thrive during a time when otherwise they may not. Overall, the importance of connecting with your consumers through your humanity and storytelling is emphasized by these thought leaders. How can you implement these ideas into your business strategy?
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