It’s not every day that you have the opportunity to hang with amazing women storytellers while listening to other amazing women storytellers share what makes them so amazing at storytelling.
So when you have that opportunity, you take it, dammit.
Which is exactly what I did a few weeks ago, when my gal Rachael invited me to go see Serial’s Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder speak at The Connecticut Forum.
Thanks to Rachael’s sick husband (sorry Dan!) and some last-minute babysitting magic (thanks Mom!), I was able to attend this nearly sold-out event. And I’m so glad I did.
Julie and Sarah talked at length about one of the main questions they receive about the podcast, which is: Why did it take off the way it did? Their answer was that when a good idea is really good, it tends to be easy because it can speak for itself.
Julie’s quote above should remind marketers and creative professionals that perhaps if an idea isn’t working, it isn’t working for a reason. The best ideas are those that are both simple and meaningful.
Julie’s comment referred to the Serial approach to storytelling, which relied on sophisticated, in-depth reporting yet allowed the host, Sarah, to share her questions and doubts. There was no pretense of expertise, and they never promised answers. Instead, they brought the audience along on their journey and openly presented the information they had, allowing the audience to explore and interpret.
This is an especially relevant lesson for all online content creators who are bombarded with messages such as, “Showcase your expertise!” or “Be a thought leader!” Translated to the business world: You can still be an honest, trustworthy storyteller and admit that you don’t have all the answers.
A question the Serial team asked itself during the reporting process was, “Is it OK to make a nonfiction story as entertaining as television?”
Their answer: yes, if it is truthful. Journalism (and all nonfiction content) can be escapist entertainment if it helps individuals open their minds to new issues or ideas.
This quote is in reference to the infamous MailChimp sponsor ad that played at the beginning of each Serial episode. In the ad, a woman mispronounces the sponsor’s name, and the resulting “Mail…Kimp?” has exploded into a delightful Internet meme. Even MailChimp got in on the #MailKimp phenomenon:
The takeaway: Real life isn’t polished. People make mistakes. People mispronounce email marketing service providers. And that’s OK. And it’s OK to reflect this imperfect life in our storytelling.
If nothing else, Serial proves that people still connect to good old-fashioned storytelling – and that tweets and Buzzfeed and Vines have not reduced the American public’s attention span to that of a goldfish. By February 2015, this series of 12 hour-long podcasts on a crime committed 16 years ago had been downloaded more than 68 million times.
Take that, 140 characters.