In an Oscar acceptance speech that was both dazzling and heartfelt, actress Viola Davis set herself apart by showing her authenticity in one confession: she acts not for fame, but in service to the stories she portrays.
“What kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola?” she asked rhetorically. “The stories of the people who dreamed, big. And never saw those dreams to fruition. People who fell in love and lost.”
“I became an artist,” she continued, “and thank God I did, because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.”
Though it may not be obvious at first glance, strategic communications professionals are artists in a similar vein. While sometimes the job is flashy -- with press passes, travel opportunities, exclusive events and high profile clients -- it’s more often characterized by constantly pinging laptops and buzzing smartphones. We might not be up for an Academy Award, but chisel strategic communications down to its bones and this is the business of telling stories too.
A Profession of Telling Stories
We are an army of creators in a world where ingenuity is integral. Whether it’s through avenues of thought leadership, video production, web design, social media managing, editorials or features, each member of the team holds the weighty responsibility of crafting clients’ stories in a way that engages the audience they’re trying to reach.
Amazing people doing remarkable things go unnoticed all the time. Communications is about more than getting a company’s name out into the vast network of news outlets; it’s about connecting the media and other audiences to the real people that make the company, the product, the book, the mission or the ministry unique, fresh and influential. In the now viral words of Simon Sinek, “People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”
The simple power of a story drives consumers to a product. Sometimes the counter-intuitive thing is the best option; certainly it’s the most innovative. Ultimately, communications is about bridging the gap between the person and the city, the company and the nation, the mission and the world. As a servant to the story, communications practices must be strategic and thoughtful to fill that connection with life and vibrancy, giving the world a picture of the beating human heart integrated into the organizations represented.
Leading the Media
As Nelson Mandela, a subtle story teller himself, said, “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front.” Successful artists like Viola Davis are naturally and necessarily called upon to be leaders as well as creatives. The same should ring true for the world of strategic communications.
When a story is mindfully told in a way that shows its potential for impact, success is in store for both the client and the representative. Relying on the power of the story to drive coverage and results might not feel like the most obvious, but the rewards resound much longer when the focus is squarely on the people and the passion.
Knox Witcher is an account coordinator at Pinkston, Inc. Stay updated on all Pinkston content by following us on Twitter (@Pinkston_co).