“Emotions trigger passions, and passions become a part of who we are”
(Phillips, et al. 55).
I believe the best way to help someone grow is to become an expert in their realm. To comprehend the triumphs, challenges, defeats, and opportunities of every situation is to understand what makes someone or something as is in the exact moment before you. I believe one must be selflessly dedicated to learning all there is to learn about a client in order to accurately and efficiently represent them and their cause. I believe the only way to achieve this level of intimacy and effectiveness is through ernst communication.
I didn’t always believe these things. In fact, I was a naive and painfully blunt son of a b*tch when I began the course of education I am now culminating. As you continue in the pages to follow, I encourage you to learn with me as you read. Grow in the ways I have, and see the world in the way I do. I am deeply convinced that at our purest form, we as humans need to be connected to others. After all, God didn’t leave Adam alone neither in the garden nor in exile from it. Nor should we as humans have the impression that our relationships are good enough or that we are to sacrifice certain intimacies for others.
The current world can be a dark and lonely place to be for someone who hasn’t developed a shell to shield who they are from those they encounter, whether it be the friend you have lunch with at work everyday, or the stranger you passed through the aisle at the grocery store. I propose we can change this. With awareness and the desire to not just preach the good news of togetherness, but to practice and share it, makes us more human than we’ve ever been before.
Together We Are One, As One We Are None.
When I walked into the same room just three and a half years ago that I’ll now be giving my colloquium presentation, I was a first time freshmen, taking a higher two hundred level Media Studies course, that in all honestly I likely had no business being in. For the most part I had myself figured out. I knew I was a strong person. I knew that with enough determination I’d eventually get what I want, even if that wasn’t what others thought was best. I had the idea that the basis of journalism and reporting was to share stories and make public the intimate details of our world that would in turn influence the way others saw the world. I’d watch the news and think, “I can tell those stories. People will listen to me”.
What I didn’t understand is that the news doesn’t connect people on a level deeper than the simple fact that we’re all hearing the same stories, or at least a variation of them. And on occasion, we might know who the news is about, likely by a long line of associations. But the stories being told, well, they’re facts, and the only emotion I’m getting about the content, is the slight turn in the anchor's head as she gives an update on government spending, or the ever so subtle inflection in her voice as her pitch lowers when she reports on the election riots.
The ways of technology and the current interpretation of democracy numb our sense of humanity and humility. Information is more accessible than it’s ever been and reading a watered down article provides a false sense of understanding and knowledge. In my experience we’re always plugged in. Taking action has now been defined as pressing “publish” on a social media post containing your outright opinions and shaming anyone who might think otherwise. Educating oneself regarding a political conundrum or social concern means reading microblog sites and taking to heart blatant biased accounts. Having influence and executing the representation intended through a democratic system are seen as entitlements even when omissive behavior is the norm.
The importance of media has risen as social engagements have taken their altered state. This age of information gives a false sense of understanding, allowing everyone and anyone to consider themselves a self-taught expert in any given disciple. On the surface, media is an outlet for sharing, and most people leave it that way. Therefore, on the surface, my training has given me the technical tools for finding a story and presenting it in a way that an audience can be distracted for a split second from whatever else they have going on to pay attention to my work. But what about after? What happens when the last frame of my video has faded, or when the last sentence is glossed over?
As a Christian many see the world as black and white: certain things being Christian-like and others not so much. Especially in the environment surrounding the University of Sioux Falls, it isn’t uncommon for Christianity to be associated with largely conservative views. But God doesn’t deny you love because you see the world a different way. Your story isn’t any less important because you’re not a clergy member. Jesus says come, and the account of the Samaritan woman in John, chapter four is a widely known passage about the workings of God and spreading the Good News.
The New Testament is about sharing the Good News of Jesus and his sacrifice for his people. It’s the perfect example of the connectedness media outlets should be striving for. Not only does the Bible give numerous examples of when Jesus tells stories, shares testimony and people listen. But, the entire Bible is a story. Our Christian faith is based on the account of a man that takes pivotal learning moments and uses them to connect people willing to listen--his followers. The entire evidence of God’s love is shared with us in the written account of those with the most intimate of relationships with God and Jesus.
“As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, ‘Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’ So the man went away and began to tell the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed” (New International Version, Mark 5: 18-20). [italics added for emphasis]
[See other examples of sharing stories and testimonies in the Bible-- Psalm 66:16, John 1:6-9, John 15: 26-27].
That brings me to where I am now.
There has to be more to the storytelling modern media takes on than simply reporting facts. It seems like an oxymoron, or maybe to some, absurd, but the world of advertising has opened up that dimension of storytelling to me. I’ve done a lot of reading, mostly books mentors of mine have recommended. Many, I never finished because their cause was about how to sell products and ideas to people on a basic level. Textbook ideas about how to identify market segments, or pad the number of leads you obtain because more leads means more sales. I’ve been utterly disappointed with the books I’ve started and stopped and started again. Is there nothing more in the storytelling world than how to bully someone into the idea that your name is better than another’s?
Much the way Gordon Mackenzie talks in his book, Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace, I’ve come to see the news and it’s outlets as a tangled mess.
"Well, two hairs unite. Then they're joined by another. And another. And another. Before long, where there was once nothing, this tangled, impenetrable mass has begun to form" (Mackenzie 29).
Similar in the way a grocery store stocks multiple different brands of bread, as well as flavors and every other kind of variation there is possible in the simple act of purchasing bread, advertising endures the same. Some breads taste better than others, some cost more or less, some stay fresh longer, and others have really great packaging. Advertising companies work to set themselves apart from others in these same ways. Cost, style, experience...the list goes on and on. But at the root of every client inquisition, is a human being. Someone who wants the story of their product, their service, their brand, and the foundation on which their brand has been built, to be shared in a way that connects their consumers. Connecting consumers to a brand, means loyalty, trust, a positive image, and of course, better sales. But that’s easier said than done.
It’s easier to claim that you’ll turn down a client, job, or opportunity that has incredible pay simply because it goes against your ideals than to actually follow through. I never knew an agency that practiced turning down a client not because the client couldn’t afford the services, but because it wasn’t a good fit, until I met the owners of Fresh Produce, LLC. To understand how they do business, you need to know that Co-Founder and Account Executive Mike Hart makes a habit out of taking time to have honest conversations with the interns who make minimum wage. Not the “here’s my coffee order” conversation, but gritty hard-to-talk-about conversations.
It’s here I learned that paying the bills isn’t what advertising is about for those who can honestly say they have a passion. If you don’t belive me, you should go to pickfresh.com and read the story about Fresh Produce’s first client and how they paid for the work. Regardless, I worked with clients that trusted the expertise of the writers and designers on staff. I sat in on meetings with some of the region’s industry leading companies and a stranger to the room wouldn’t have guessed it was a client meeting. Monetizing skills and ideas is what gets a lot of people into the advertising business, not the client work itself. Advertising is a creative process, and in order to create, you have to have someone to create for.
I’ve been talking to a lot of different people in my current job quest. One business owner hit me with a hard truth. After asking me about my background, this gentleman told me,“I’m looking for someone like you to do marketing internally. I’ve talked to a number of agencies about working with them and they always talk like we have to do everything their way and they don’t listen to us”.
I’m changing the way the world looks at advertising by being real. Instead of stuffy marketing phrases, emotion and passion speak louder. That’s where character is displayed and reputations built.
I’ve been saying it for a while now, at first, mostly as a sales pitch in my desperate attempt to find an internship and now, a job, but I see a world in which we collectively share a bold and unified story. Where each person has a life intertwined with the next. And it builds and builds until it’s obvious that your story is part of mine, and mine is part of someone further down the line whom we’ve never met before. Thus, birthing my love for the community built between people who share a story. Not to spike the number of eyeballs they can steal, but because there’s a voice inside them urging, pleading, demanding they reach beyond themselves, and find value in the small pieces of our world where there isn’t any.
Jesus found value in lives of so many people who, at the time, were deemed unfit, or unworthy of the love God had to give. For years culture has told us who to assign more influence or more power to based on their social or economic status. It’s not a secret that without money it’s more than difficult to function in modern society, but whose to say this idolized form of currency bears the most significance in defining what’s important and what’s not. That’s up to us.
News outlets and the journalists working for them shouldn’t be deciding what stories are important to share, because they all are. We choose if our story is one we’ll tell, and we decide if we’re going to listen to anyone else. And that doesn’t mean some days more than others. It’s a way of life: it’s a perspective. Advertising means sharing a story about an experience that has too much meaning and impact to even the most introverted person too much not to tell the world. Advertising is a means in which no one has to say “this is relevant” for their specific target in order to share it.
A book that changed my life, a book in which I fell in love with every lesson and every parable, The Passion Conversation: Understanding, Sparking, and Sustaining Word of Mouth Marketing uses less than 200 pages of examples, experiences, details and too many quotable lines to include in this statement to express, “We’re in the people business” (Phillips, et al. 14).
It’s safe to say before all of this I was vaguely aware of the idea that one can’t measure the importance or newsworthiness of someone else’s story without listening and understanding, without the open and defenseless leap into another individual’s realm. I now know and, in the purest form appreciate, that not everyone has the same story. And the variation in stories doesn’t signify any less value in them. Each life journey has value and teaches a lesson that we all can learn from. Instead of using technology and a backwards idea of democracy to silence some voices and amply others, the tools of media and those we trust with them have the honorable obligation of bringing people together who otherwise might not make eye contact on the subway. This connectedness is plainly visible in the emotions influencing the passions that in turn become part of who we are.
Mackenzie, Gordon. Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace. Penguin Group, 1998.
Phillips, Robbin, et al. The Passion Conversation: Understanding, Sparking, and Sustaining Word of Mouth Marketing. John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2013.
The Bible. New International Version. Zondervan, 2002.