The Art in Storytelling

We all love to tell a story, We all love to hear a story – and hey, we’re in the business of storytelling (who isn’t these days?). But since ‘the story’ has superseded ‘the big idea’ and ‘the journey’ how do we tell the difference between a good story and a bad story and more importantly how do we sell it?

Well fortunately for us, last night we trekked on down to the SheSays event ‘Finding Great Stories’ at Barker on Wall Street, New York. I guess you could say this is a story, to explain that story, about how to sell the best story.

Are you sitting comfortably?

On a somewhat sweaty New York summer evening in July, Laura, a British female art director waited for her sidekick outside No. 30 Broad Street in the Financial District.

Her floaty summer dress was surrounded by suits. After embracing [failing] to channel her inner business woman she hid behind her book and pretended she blended into her surroundings. In what seemed like a lifetime, but in reality was probably a few minutes her networking buddy, confidant, and mosquito bug buffet; Hollie had arrived. Together they headed up to Barker.

The SheSays event was in full swing, filled wall to wall with eager-eared female advertising types, some of the industries finest.

The panel: Annie-Rose Strasser – Senior Editor at Gimlet Media, Rosemarie Ryan – Co-CEO at Co:Collective, Kinda Akash – Creative Director at The Mill, Ray Rainville – Managing Partner at Consolidated Content Company and panel moderator Sandi Harari, Creative Director at Barker took to their stools.

As Sandi Harari fired away with her questions, both Laura and Hollie (in the front row, and not in the back with the cool kids) geeked out with their moleskins. Page by page they filled their books with wisdom and genius. The kind of wisdom and genius that they would most likely ‘repackage’ at a later date and relay to others, like it was their own. As Marky-Mark Twain put it: “There is no such thing as a new idea”.

The panel shared their insights and the audience absorbed.

“When trying to find the story, become a therapist; ask a thousand questions until you find that juicy nugget”. – Kinda Akash

“To be a journalist, to get out of your comfort zone and hunt down that unknown story”. – Annie-Rose Strasser

“Keep it simple”. – Ray Rainville

And our personal favourite: “Find the Villain” – Rosemarie Ryan

…because every good story needs one. In this story, the villain was the heat. Laura and Hollie attempted to keep their cool as their shiny faces reflected the sun and blinded the panel.

The panel continued, discussing whether a story the right solution for a brand? Do they need a story as much as we want to write them? Is there another way to get that audience loyalty that client so deeply craves? Rosemarie Ryan put forth a novel, and somewhat modified idea from JFK, “Don’t ask what the advertising is going to do for people. Ask what are people going to do with the advertising.” In essence, how will the story play out and what journey will it go on. Laura scribbled down frantically, whilst having that age-old millennial problem of trying to take an Insta-story at the same time. The panel then turned to the topic of podcasts. Annie-Rose Strasser took to the floor leading the eager audience of primarily advertising queens down a path that they were not familiar with. The power of the podcast success she shared, was with your box of tricks or signposting; always letting the listener know that it’s about to get more interesting, perhaps drop some music juxtaposed with silence for dramatic effect. She went to explain how you can actually be more aggressive with your storytelling as you don’t have a visual to rely on, like the days of radio coming full circle.

As the evening started to wrap up. Laura and Hollie let a wealth of knowledge sink in, but one thing stuck with them – That the power of the ‘story’ is knowing when it is the right time or even the right solution for a client. And if the client is asking for a story, if it isn’t right for the brand, don’t indulge yourself, you’ll be wasting everybody’s time. Don’t be afraid to say no – do something else that blows them away.

As Laura and Hollie escaped the sea of suits and dived head first into the air conditioned subway, transporting them back across the Williamsburg bridge, back to the safety of Brooklyn and out of Manhattan they felt empowered and ready to tackle that next brief, whether it was a story or not.

Follow SheSays for coming up event information

Laura Harrington YCCer @touchuponstudios

Sidekick & bug buffet: Hollie Fraser @BooksSubway

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