The Blogarium of Dr. Stawnassus: The Power of Story

“Somewhere in the world, right now, someone is telling a story.  A different story.  A saga, a romance, a tale of unforeseen death, it doesn’t matter.  It’s sustaining the universe.  That’s why we’re still here.”

-Dr. Parnassus

One thing I truly love about movies is how much they depend on the viewer.  I know that may seem contrary to how many of you view movies, but it’s true.  The writer and director and producer and actors may all have a particular movie in mind while it’s being made (fyi, they might not all have the same movie in mind, either), but it ultimately comes down to who is watching as to what meaning is drawn out of a film.  Each and every movie means something different to different people, but it always means something on a personal level (that is why you find people who get so offended when you don’t like their favorite movie).

What affects people is the story.  The characters, the special effects, the dialogue and all the other little things that make up a movie are important, but they are important because they all build the story around the person watching.  Stories have the ability to truly affect people on a personal level and that is one of the main reasons learning to tell a story is a very important skill for any marketer or PR professional.

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is a wonderful film.  It is beautiful, it is well-directed, it contains some of the last film of Heath Ledger, but most of all it has a compelling story about the importance of story and imagination.  Dr. Parnassus has made a deal with the devil (played wonderfully by Tom Waits) in which he is granted eternal life in exchange for his daughter’s soul on her 16th birthday.  In order to save her soul, Dr. Parnassus must gather more souls than the devil by taking people into their imaginations where they are given a choice between good and evil.  He must pray that they choose good and fend off the advances of the devil if he hopes to keep his daughter safe.  It may sound a little confusing, but it all makes sense while watching the skillfully crafted film.

Every person’s imagination tells a story about them: are they materialistic, do they strive for success, are they an alcoholic, etc, and we are drawn deeper and deeper into their stories as the movie progresses.

Does your newest marketing or PR campaign tell a story?  Could you write it down and it makes sense for someone outside your team (I would suggest you try that, by the way)?  There have been many great blogs about story-telling (see here, here, here and here for some examples), but it’s important most of all that your story capture your audience’s imagination.

Capture Your Targets' Imaginations

Make Your Story Interesting: People don’t want to listen to a story that is too long, or too choppy.  Make sure there are characters that people can relate to in situations people actually find themselves in.  You wouldn’t try to sell bleach to middle-class moms with the same story that you would sell a Ferrari, I hope.

Story Structure is Important:  Don’t let anyone ever tell you that college English or Create Writing 101 was a waste of time.  If you don’t know how to put together a beginning, middle and end of a story that is consistent and flows to a common conclusion, you don’t know how to market or relate to your organization’s publics.  Even a blog should have a story structure (take mine for example, I started with a light intro leading into the meatier middle and I will soon move onto the conclusion and end with a clever one-liner, just you watch).

Don’t Be Afraid of Your Imagination:  Just because it hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean that it is the wrong way of doing things.  Try new ways of approaching old issues and don’t be afraid to fail.  Dr. Parnassus only started doing well in his wager with the devil when Tony (Heath Ledger) came aboard and suggested a few changes to better relate to their audience.  If you audience has moved online and you have never started a blog or a relevant podcast, why not start now?  Why not work out a deal with Kindle or iPad and have your company white papers available for your target audience?

Don't be afraid to try new things

When it comes to stories and dreams, your possibilities are endless.  A popular phrase for it is, “if you can dream it, you can do it.”  It’s a little cheesy, but it’s true.  Put together a great story with your audience in mind.  Capture their hearts and minds and bring them along with you on your story, make them a part os the story.  Resonate on a personal level with the people you are trying to reach and you can achieve anything.

Just use your imagination.


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About Joey Strawn

Digital marketing sociologist and public relations specialist with experience on national and local campaigns with a love for film and the things it says about our culture and business. Joey is the Senior Social Media Strategist at ISM in Nashville, TN and is in the business of helping people and companies deal with the new universe of social media in their marketing and PR endeavors.
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