Soledad and the power of storytelling


American television personality, Soledad O”Brien offers us consolation in a world of us versus them. Our infinite power to tell stories will help us learn more about each other.

Soledad grew up as a biracial kid in a mostly White town in New York . Here, she understood why race was not a social construct. Race is real in America.  We are very much connected to ethnic origins, privilege, poverty, social standing and accomplishments.

Her parents were immigrants.  Her dad was Australian and her mom came from Cuba and it was tough for them to get get married and raise a family in the America of the 50s and the 60s.

In television, Soledad learned why producers had pre-conceived notions of stories even before they were aired. Stories of poor people almost always led with negative connotations of where they came from, unemployment in their communities, drugs and violence. Very rarely did producers take notice of the individual human being, their successes, their accomplishments. The personality of the poor gets sadly forgotten in American television, especially if you are black or latino. Soledad was delivering the Elizabeth D. Rockwell lecture at the University of Houston recently.

Today’s television relies on talking heads, who get an annual payment and claim to be so-called experts on specific subjects. Armchair journalists never got real stories from the field and I learned that in journalism school.

In-depth, incisive, deliberate reporting  is costly. Real reporting requires hard work, patience and the courage to ask hard questions. We have to be vulnerable and learn and understand the context of the subjects we are interviewing.

Sadly, our evening news revolves around shootings, the cat that got lost in the alley or an angry parent who found that the school bus was late.

I will leave you with a profound quote from Soledad: “I’ve learned that fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you. The journey is valuable, but believing in your talents, your abilities, and your self-worth can empower you to walk down an even brighter path. Transforming fear into freedom-how great is that?”

Advertisements

Simple marketing ideas work


I recently tried a simple marketing concept at work.  A well-regarded faculty member was celebrating his 60th birthday and he didn’t want his friends, relatives or former students to send him presents or wish him well on his birthday.

Instead, he wanted them to donate to a scholarship endowment to help students who faced hardships during their externships.

I talked to the professor and came up with a simple idea. Why don’t we highlight the professor’s age and encourage everyone to donate a minimum of $60 on his 60th birthday? Next, we focused on identifying the best medium to disseminate his message. The professor, a great Peanuts fan, had an office adorned with Schulz and his characters. We created a simple, yet humorous e-blast featuring a Peanuts character and a message from the Professor urging well-wishers to donate $60 to the scholarship.

We planned two dates to disseminate the e-blast. The first was send a week before his 60th and the other hit in-boxes three days before his birthday. The idea worked and over 50 individuals gave varying amounts to the endowment.

This effort generated many well-intentioned conversations. The Professor felt proud and said he couldn’t have got a better 60th birthday present than the response from his friends, former students and relatives. We made a simple iphone thank you video and emailed it to all who donated and they also received a hand written note.

Sometimes, simple marketing ideas generate larger conversations. They create deeper impact than complex, metrics driven content marketing.

%d bloggers like this: