Show And Tell

Thaler Pekar, writing in Stanford Social Innovation Review, argues that there is value in a narrative organization.

The value of narrative in your organization extends well beyond telling stories in your annual report and newsletters. When an organization embraces narrative and applies it throughout its work, brand identity is clear and appealing; audiences are quickly and sustainably engaged; leaders appreciate and strategically share stories; and knowledge is easily gathered and shared.

Your brand identity can be created, strengthened, and explored by asking: What stories are we sharing about ourselves? What stories are other people sharing about us? People engage with people, not with amorphous entities. By sharing stories, you are engaging your audiences in hearing, understanding, and remembering your organization’s larger narrative. And, because stories are more memorable than disassociated facts, they spread more easily.

That’s good, and it makes me ask, what stories are we sharing about ourselves? I gave myself the title of Chief Storyteller for a reason–I must have some decent stories to share.

Here’s a story: before she retired, my mom was a sales promotion planner at QLM in Princeton, where she worked on J&J, Kraft and other mega consumer brands and became an expert in cause-related marketing. After I had my degree in English in hand, my mom suggested more than once that I apply myself as a copywriter. I thought I knew what that meant, accordingly, it was an idea I resisted until the day when it wasn’t my mom’s idea any longer, but my own. Then nothing could stop me from becoming a copywriter, not Wieden+Kennedy’s indifference, nor my own naiveté.

Early in my ad career, after getting my break in the business in Salt Lake City, I went to dinner with a friend who couldn’t understand what I was doing. Why a passion for advertising, that corporate dross we routinely ignore? It’s a good question and I don’t recall my response on that fateful eve, but I do know my original motivations had something to do with what happens when copy and art come together. Images add to the narrative, and in some cases images become the narrative.

Take a look at this image from a brochure we recently made for Danville Services Corporation:

Danville is a client rich in story and I’m privileged to be able to help tell some of the company’s stories. But whatever story Danville chooses to tell, Matt Hepworth’s photos help to bring it all together in a way copy alone can not.

Ad copy is not like fiction, where the whole point is to get the reader to imagine the characters, setting and events. A brand does create images in one’s mind, but there’s little room for ambiguity. A brand wants a resoundingly clear image and photography can deliver that, as it does in this case.

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