Content Marketing

Why Do Stories Matter? Ask This Millennial Stuck in an Elevator

Why do stories matter?

On the surface it’s an easy question, but in a world where marketers have co-opted storytelling and turned it into a monstrous buzzword, it can be easy to lose sight of the answer. And, in truth, the answer is different for anyone.

For a new storytelling mini-series, we gave four filmmakers or producers an open-ended assignment: Create a one- to two-minute film that interprets and answers that critical question, “Why do stories matter?” To be honest, we had no idea what to expect.

The first film in our series comes from John Shankman and his creative agency, Hashtag Labs. You may remember John as the former publisher of The Awl; today, he’s busy telling amazing stories—like his submission for our series. Check it out below.

We emailed John to learn more about how his film and how he approaches storytelling:

Why did you choose to tell the story you did in this video?

We wanted to tell a funny story because we love to make people laugh (or at least try to. A lot of (all of) the pre-production credit goes to the writer/director/editor, Brian Neaman, really. It was a great idea by him. He analyzed our production constraints (limited budget, time, etc) and created a story framework that would allow us to get the most bang for our buck.

Shoot day was really rewarding too, because once the cast and crew were on location, everyone contributed their own ideas and that led us to new places—it’s always exciting to see the creative process in action.

Do you think stories actually matter, or were you just humoring us?

I’ll let a person much smarter than I handle this. George Saunders on why stories matter: “The best stories proceed from a mysterious truth-seeking impulse that narrative has when revised extensively; they are complex and baffling and ambiguous; they tend to make us slower to act, rather than quicker. They make us more humble, cause us to empathize with people we don’t know, because they help us imagine these people, and when we imagine them—if the storytelling is good enough—we imagine them as being, essentially, like us.”

What’s your favorite story?

Back to the Future is pretty epic. Goonies too.

Tell a funny story in 50 words.

I was going to the gym for the first time in months with my younger brother and I came out in a work out shirt that was too small. He gave me a shocked look and then calmly said, “Is that a size schmedium?”

What advice would you give brands that are trying to tell stories that don’t suck?

This is pretty cliché at this point, but be authentic and genuine. Marketers should build their online brands/stories/digital footprints one piece of content at a time. A library of interesting, honest, and relevant content is possibly worth more in the long run than a one-time viral hit.

In business there’s this saying that I like that goes TIME + PRESSURE = DIAMONDS. That’s to say: Stick with it over a decent amount of time, and you’ll start to see results. I think marketers who are getting into creating content regularly, as opposed to previous eras where they created only a couple of messages per year, could use that saying too. Keep the pedal to the metal one piece of content at a time and over time you’ll see results.

Who are your three favorite wizards?

Julia Wicker, Quentin Coldwater, and Janet Pluchinsky.

Name your least favorite band.

Honestly, pretty tough. All music is pretty good in my book. Hashtag create and all that.

Image by John Shankman
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