From the listener’s perspective, a story is made of events. This happened, then that happened, then that happened, etc. But from the storyteller’s perspective, a story is made of choices. And behind every feature of every story, there’s a story about how that feature was crafted.
In honor of National Tell a Story Day, we’re going to dig into all those little stories … and tell a pretty nifty one of our own.
Here’s a true tale from the life of Dan Lee, vice president of media relations at Weber Shandwick Seattle:
Twenty-odd years ago, I was working as a sportscaster in Indiana and thinking about a career change. I heard about a basketball manufacturer on the West Coast that was really taking off, and I pestered them about getting an interview.
I didn’t know much about the company, so I reached out to Bobby Knight, the head coach of the Hoosiers men’s basketball team and a pretty famous character in those days. We’d briefly met each other through my radio work a few years back, but that was it. Anyway, I asked him for any advice or information he had about this company I was trying to interview with. He was kind enough to write back, but all I got was one sentence: “They make the best basketballs in the world!” Thanks a lot, coach. I shrugged it off, kept digging for info (this was before the internet) and kept pestering the company for an interview. Finally I got one.
The guys I was interviewing with were at an event in Atlanta, and my wife and I drove all night to get there. I brought the letter with me — why not, right? I met the company reps at a hotel restaurant, and the first thing they did was ask what I knew about their company. I showed them the letter from Coach Knight.
That’s all I needed to know about the company as far as they were concerned! One guy ran off to make copies of it right away. They offered me a job the next day.
Dan’s current job is to pitch stories to media contacts on behalf of our clients. But let’s pretend for a moment that Dan is the client. The story about Bobby Knight and the job interview is his product. Dan wants to generate some interest in this product, so he hires Weber Shandwick.
And off we go …
The first thing we do is zero in on what Dan’s product is really about. We put strategist Cindy Yee on the job, and through a bunch of research, including multiple conversations with Dan, she tries to identify the core truth about Dan’s product.
There are actually lots of important truths, including information about Dan’s audience and competitors (after all, he isn’t the only person out there with a “funny how life is” sort of story). According to Cindy, the hardest part of her job is synthesizing them all into one:
Sometimes you’ll find key truths that reinforce one another, and sometimes you’ll find some that are really opposed to one another. Opposing truths can actually be really useful, because they have tension — which is automatically compelling.
Of all the information Cindy gleaned about Dan’s product, she identifies his choice to bring Coach Knight’s letter to the interview as the one with the most cognitive tension. The letter didn’t serve the purpose he’d originally hoped it would, but he brought it anyway.
This leads Cindy to the key insight behind Dan’s product:
That’s the concept, the core truth the Weber team will be working with. And to express that idea in a phrase that can cover all the different ways we’ll come up with to get Dan’s message out there, Cindy hands the baton to the copywriting team.
Copywriter Mike Mathieu comes up with some potential taglines. With input from Cindy and others on the team, he whittles it down to a few finalists, and ultimately they settle on a winner.
The pros and cons of the different options are pretty clear — but where do the ideas come from in the first place? Here’s Mike:
You think about verbs, because they bring life to a phrase. You think about basketball, because that’s obviously a theme. You think about puns and twists on common phrases — sometimes it works out and sometimes it’s really cheesy. But you have to give every idea a try, even the bad ones, because with every wrong answer you inch your way closer to the right one.
Now, with the right line for Dan’s campaign, we ask designer Ryan Applegate to create a campaign mark.
Lots of choices went into that, for sure. Ryan explains the story behind them:
The diagram in the background suggests not only a sports theme but the idea of sketching out a plan in the middle of a game — which is the central idea we’re going for. The brush strokes in the typeface set a personal, heartfelt tone, and they also connect with the idea that this is an art. We know from talking to Dan that he feels his story/product is about creativity: It takes creativity to “bounce” to a new strategy midstream.
Dan’s product now has a face, an identity, and a well-informed creative strategy to back it all up. From there, the “Art of the Bounce” campaign comes to life through multiple executions — a video, an ebook, social ads, Dan himself appearing on various panels — designed to reach specific audiences in specific ways. There’s a story behind how Weber comes up with each one of those executions, but once the campaign is unfurled, our work is pretty much done.
How is the campaign doing? How well is Dan’s product hitting? The final chapter of this story (that is, the story of Weber telling the story of Dan’s story) isn’t written until questions like these are answered and those answers are fed back into our executions, making them smarter and more effective.
The Internet is a huge channel in the “Art of the Bounce” campaign, and to measure how various executions are performing, Chris Goddard and fellow analytics experts actually ENTER THE INTERNET LIKE IN THE MOVIE “TRON” AND BATTLE EVILDOERS IN A WORLD MADE OF GRAPHS:
Not really. But they do lots of nuanced tracking and tweaking to make sure that ads and clicks are performing as they should. It’s critical work, and Chris and his analytics teammates play a huge role in many campaigns. Measuring impact and adjusting accordingly is a core component of the Weber Shandwick Seattle approach.
In other words, we know all about the art of the bounce.
Header image courtesy of J E Theriot.