This past Wednesday marked the first meeting of the “Thinkers and Doers” initiative at Seiden Advertising. With a goal to bring the NYC art & culture scene to and provide outside inspiration to members of the Seiden Team, Patrick Lupinski (Managing Director, Seiden & Friends) and Pharyl Weiner (Engagement Strategist, Seiden & Friends) drew a few of us into the conference room with the promise of free beer and deep conversation. This week’s guest: American playwright and novelist Chris Shinn.
With his back to a digital projection of a roaring fire, (what we consider to be the ambiance for the evening) Shinn humbly shed light into the life of a NYC playwright. He illustrated his creative process as one of deep meditation followed by a strict dedication of transcribing the thoughts onto paper, as if the script already existed on an abstract plane and he was simply the medium through which it got onto the paper. Though he paints a picture that plays or novels are simply waiting for us to pluck them out of thin air, if we only concentrate our imaginations, it was evident that there is also a great deal of skill and hard work behind a manuscript. Genius (or even great raw talent) alone will not suffice for success. To succeed as an artist, of course one needs the “it” factor, but that is only one piece of the puzzle. The life of a writer, just as the life of a banker, doctor, lawyer, and even—dare I say it—a Madison Avenue executive, is one of practice and patience.
In addition to his personal success as a writer, Shin also spends his time teaching and advising graduate students at The New School in Manhattan. We were curious, “How do you teach someone how to tell a story?” With the caveat that the art of writing is neither quantifiable nor are his methods provable, he outlined what (in his opinion) must be present for a compelling story: Internal conflict, a Clearly Defined Antagonist & Authenticity. These three elements (perhaps the “Tell Me Something I Don’t Knows” of the theatre world) seem evident. Placed side by side, it seems obvious that they would need to be there.
Internal Conflict: As human beings, and particularly as spectators, we are fascinated by the character who must choose between two conflicting desires—perhaps even two different lives. We are drawn to their struggle because conflict is present in all our lives, everyday. And while we crave the ultimate resolution, the journey to that end point compels us to remain engaged through the duration of the struggle.
A Villain: What’s life without a hero to root for or…more importantly, someone to Hate? The Villain offers us an “other”—someone who we can bond together against. We get a certain pleasure out of watching the hero struggle against this villain.
Authenticity: This might be the hardest element of the three to capture—one cannot affect authenticity. A writer must speak with a true, clear voice to express a human emotion, or range of emotions, that emanate from the manuscript with little effort. The real, essentially, will look effortless. We will feel the emotions of the characters because they speak to the primal, human instincts in each of us.
And so Chris Shinn concluded his crash course on the art of storytelling (15 weeks of teaching were reduced down to roughly 24 minutes of talking). The rest of the evening continued with a discussion about storytelling within the sphere of social media—particularly a brand’s ability to tell a story and involve the consumer. Like Shinn, we work to reach an audience through the means of storytelling, creating a narrative through copy, image & design.
How many friends do you have? How many of them do you influence? The more, the better these days. Brands are starting to reward those that have the most influence with pretty great discounts.
Two recent promotions come to mind that use this tactic. The first comes from Gilt. The online curated shop is partnering with Klout and rewarding those with higher klout scores with significant discounts toward their purchases. The second comes from a movie about Andy Warhol. Once you like the movie on Facebook, the application tallies up how many friends you have. In the true spirit of Andy Warhol, the more friends you have the less you pay to watch the movie online. Unfortunately, the application caps off at 400 friends so we still had to pay something. Womp. Womp.
Say good bye to your brand’s default welcome tab on Facebook! This piece of digital real estate was a powerful marketing feature that teased non-fans with special content like contests, coupons and various other promotions. In order to gain access to it, though, you had to Like the page first. But let’s be honest, the rewards were never that great to begin with. And, though, brands were able to dramatically increase their Facebook fan base using these tactics, true engagement was always the problem. It’s much easier to get Likes than foster a meaningful dialogue. This change may seem like a major disadvantage to most, but it’ll allow brands to tell a more organic story about themselves, their products and the services that they provide. Because, after all, if you’re in the social space you should be more genuine and less gimmicky, right?
Rather than gaming the new layout to act like the old one, think more about the story you and your fans will be telling about your brand. The old layout seemed like a one way conversation. The new Timeline layout not only populates your page with what you post, it also prominently displays what others are saying about you on their own walls via the tagging feature.
This evolution for Facebook shows us that the internet is truly maturing. It also proves how brands play a major role in our every day lives through the posts we make and the stories we share with our own friends. That seems way more genuine and truly transparent to us and ultimately a win for any brand that can become part of your story.
A system of governance via rules and policies only tells employees what they can and cannot do; think of a restrictive social media policy that dictates what employees can and cannot type or tweet. A more human operating system puts humanity, rather than rules, at its core and trusts employees to act, inspired by values, mission and purpose, as opposed to being coerced. Consider how Southwest Airlines flight attendants are free to flex their creativity and sense of humor when walking passengers through safety procedures; their individual personalities bring an uplifting jolt to a mundane process. Southwest’s culture and values — rather than any policies or procedures — gives rise to this type of employee connection-forging. Not surprisingly, Southwest’s culture has also helped make it a leading social enterprise.
“Social-networking, micro-blogging, and content-sharing sites (Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr) witnessed the most dramatic percentage increase as trusted sources of information about a company, rising by 88, 86, and 75 percent, respectively.”—Edelman Digital
The former CEO of Sun Microsystems has reemerged in the tech world — this time at the helm of a seven-employee startup rather than a 28,000-employee technology company. Jonathan Schwartz announced his new venture, CareZone, on Wednesday. The startup is a private, cloud-based information h…