I’m a big fan of TV drama and have been for a long time. Good dramas have long since replaced movies from where I sit, because most movies are aimed at getting 18-35 year old butts in seats and from my perspective, mostly suck.
Good TV dramas on the other hand allow for much bigger story lines and character arcs. You get to care for the characters, you get to root for them and appreciate them because there’s enough time for them to reveal their whole selves to you. And writing is usually good enough to bring real humanity to the whole effort.
In social media everybody talks about engagement. These people should watch a little more TV to really see how that is done. You don’t engage people just by telling them stuff, even if it’s stuff that they haven’t heard before. You engage them by working your true self into everything you do and everything you say. By telling the truth as you see it. By showing people your flaws and your good points and letting one help build the other so that eventually the people you are trying to reach can get a clear picture of you.
People Buy People. Then They Buy Stuff. And Stories Sell Both.
I learned this very early on in the advertising business. Because I have news for all you hot shit digital marketers out there who preach that storytelling is the key to success in digital media. That’s been true since the beginning of advertising as we know it. It’s how guys like David Ogilvy, J Walter Thompson, Leo Burnett and Raymond Rubicam became the emperors of the communications business.
I studied these people. They were my mentors. And the truth telling they espoused is still how all communication is done today. The only difference, for everybody out there who thinks they are reinventing the wheel with their digital marketing programs, the only difference is the media that carries the message.
If you’re not telling a story and not telling it honestly, you’re not going anywhere.
So What Does This Have To Do With The Newsroom?
The Newsroom, which just ended a three season run last week on HBO, is the story of the people who work in a fairly large cable TV network newsroom. The story line has to do with a number of things, mostly exploring the theme which is established beautifully by the lead character, played by Jeff Daniels, in response to a naive question posed to him at a panel evening at Northwestern University. The question was, “What makes America the greatest country in the world?” The answer, so eloquently put by series creator Aaron Sorkin, and gotten across with astonishing power by Daniels, is that it’s not. (but with the caveat that it could be again)
From there the series goes on to explore many of the reasons why that is the truth. The core reason, from the main character’s point of view, is that America has simply gotten away from communicating information in an intelligent way, which has led to all kinds of bad things, politically and socially, which, in turn, have degraded America’s greatness from within.
The quest in this series is to get back to doing the news honestly. But it’s really a metaphor as well, because what Sorkin wants is a more honest and open dialogue between the people and the powers that be, which means somehow getting the powerful people important to America to start telling the truth again. To stop bullshitting the public. And stop following party lines.
If you only follow the central theme of this series, you will see that what this is all about, is what I have been talking about in this post…that whatever we communicate should tell our story honestly, convincingly and in engaging fashion.
This, in turn, will make our communications more honest, our connections to each other better formed and our engagement based on mutual depth of knowledge.
The Newsroom, was way more than a first class piece of TV entertainment. The writer, who I consider to be one of the great geniuses of my generation, is going deep, because he sees how shallow the world has become since the advent of the Internet. How quantity has overtaken quality. How relationships have trouble forming within all this chaos. And how little people actually listen to each other, as opposed to just being polite and waiting to speak.
This Has A Lot To Do With You and Me
The Internet has definitely changed the ways in which we communicate. But it should not change the ‘how’ of it. We should always communicate honestly. We should always leave a solid impression of ourselves and our beliefs in the posts we write. We should always be inviting engagement, and not just superficially.
We are, all of us learning to communicate in a different way. But the best way to do that is by figuring out how to use the new tools to do an old job. Because communication is the constant, no matter how much superficial or systemic change occurs.
On another note. I’d just like to wish everybody all the best over the holidays and throughout 2015. I been having a very good time here on LinkedIn. I have developed a few very solid relationships and this is leading to good things for everyone concerned. I can only wish the same for you all. Merry Christmas….or whatever you’ve got going on. Jim