What Entertainment Can Teach Us About Storytelling

A few weeks ago, our CEO, Kim did a blog post about The Walking Dead (TWD). So it’s no secret that it’s a rather beloved show by a few team members (myself included). But one thing that always seems to dominate the comments section of every TWD article post-episode is: why do people still watch this show? It’s too slow, too graphic and the cliff-hangers are too cruel and overplayed.

However, I’m here to share how the pieces of the show play into storytelling and how storytelling manifests itself in our day-to-day communications creative processes.

Alternatively, you could say that when you spend a lot of time watching television, you have to find a creative way to explain what you like to do for fun (*cough**cough*).

Character Development

Possibly one of the greatest aspects of TWD (in my opinion) is the growth of the characters. Fun fact: the title of the show is actually in reference to the people trying to survive, not the actual living dead. The intentional focus on what these characters are willing to sacrifice and willing to do just to survive is critical not just to their character, but to driving the plot. It’s important to the audience that characters aren’t flat or stagnant. And it’s the job of the writers (and even the actors) to bring a fictional concept to life.

In any form of communications, we have a story to tell. Our clients’ stories make up their brand and how others view them. Our clients grow and change, hopefully with our support, guidance and sometimes a few surprise script changes along the way. The brand perception is crucial for us. Like a character in a story, brand determines how people react to a company or organization and, ultimately, if they like them or not. No one wants bland businesses that are the same now as they were twenty years ago. Growth drives businesses like it does characters, and sometimes it’s the communications agency that drives that forward, whether it’s keeping up with the social and digital realm, or learning to understand and engage with a new audience.

Plot

It’s probably one of the main critiques of TWD. Because let’s be real, not everyone can die every episode. Although it does seem to feel like that almost every season when you keep getting attached to fictional characters. But that’s a grief-stricken blog post no one wants to see from me. But as detrimental to my health as they are, knowing where to place those cliff-hangers and how to tell that story to keep people invested is vital.

In communications, fortunately, there’s no need to introduce a man with a barbed-wire bat to keep things interesting. Instead, we’re able to rely on the ever-changing landscape around us and the mission and voice of our clients to tell their stories. The elements we pick out and the decisions we make in terms of what we think our audience wants and needs to know determines if they keep biting. Every decision is strategic and that’s what separates regular consumers from brand loyalists.

Know Your Audience

It’s a facet that can be easily overlooked or quickly taken advantage of. TWD fans know this to be true – painfully so. And while many of us stick it out for the long-term obsession, there’s no denying that being forced to wait 6 months and twenty minutes to find out which beloved character was killed off feels like going overboard in our loyalty. But the writers of TWD likely know what will keep the most loyal of the fanbase watching, regardless of how many angry tweets we tag them in (not that I’ve done that or anything).

Communications is no different and just as challenging. There are a multitude of platforms that reach various audiences and stakeholders. How we tailor our message is crucial to whether or not it sticks. Transparency is often key, and being straightforward is pretty necessary. But our audience drives why we do what we do and listening to what they’re saying is how we create our plot and develop our characters.

 

There’s a wonderful connection between entertainment and communications. It’s all storytelling – taking an idea and knowing how to shape it into something others will respond to. And the best part is that there’s absolutely no shortage of stories to tell in either industry. That’s the great thing about it all – there’s no way of knowing what insights and perspectives you’ll pick up binge-watching your favorite shows.

So when you’re tackling those fun “what have you been up to?” conversations over the upcoming holidays, just say you’re using the entertainment industry to understand how to better support your clients and engage with your audience.

Works for me anyway.

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