July 26, 2018

Article at Josh on Authory

Creative Meeting Webinar Transcript

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou

Whether we like to admit it or not, we’re not entirely rational beings. If we were, nobody would ever fall in love or start businesses. The risks for devastation are just too irrational. I hate a broken heart. I hate the thought of a failed business. And if you think about it rationally, the odds of succeeding in both of those are slim. Yet, we still do it and we still succeed. Everyday. That’s because at the end of the day how we feel about something or someone is way more powerful that what we rationally think about them.

I think that feeling can also be thought of as a first impression.

So, here’s a science tidbit: Our brains process feelings in a completely different section than language; scientists think that explains why it can be difficult to accurately express intense feelings and emotion in words. So, we tend to use metaphors. “I felt like a kid in a candy store,” for example. It’s very visual. The words represent an idea that is beyond simple rationale. We use visual metaphors here to elicit feelings from our readers that we hope entices them to want to learn more. We want them to see an image that makes them feel like kids at a candy store.

That’s what our creative meeting forms are for. They’re a tool we use to fully embrace and understand a creative process as we strive to capture each client’s story. They help draw out what they want their first impression to be and what they want their readers to feel.

We redesigned the CMFs to be more refined and effective in collecting the information we need to build, package, wrap, and polish each spread in a way that asks readers to feel something and remember it. It is far easier to remember and long for a feeling than an obscure fact or number. Facts and numbers don’t mean anything unless they tell a story.

So, let’s review the new outline for the CMF in three sections.

1. Remind Your Clients Why We Do It and Who Our Readers Are

2. Help Them Define Their Goals and Message

3. Curate with Respect to Gain Their Trust

1. Remind Your Clients Why We Do It and Who Our Readers Are

On the new CMFs, we’re including some brief descriptions that will help clarify the questions we ask. I’ll be a little more in-depth here, but they should act as standard basic guides to help validate what we’re doing. I kind of touched on why we do it, so let’s look at who our reader is.

As editors, you are storytellers, and storytelling is the oldest and most natural form of collecting and organizing information in an understandable way. Rationally, stories simplify complex ideas. Emotionally, they connect us and give us something to believe in; something to trust; something to feel. Let’s give our scouting readers what they want: authentic stories to collect and share to gain insider status.

Here’s another tidbit: Stories literally add value to the objects they are attached to.

2. Help Them Define Their Goals and Message

The second section is most different from the previous CMF. This is about defining and refining each client’s message to help simplify the visual.

Have you ever been sitting on an airplane during boarding, watching the people go by, thinking “please don’t sit next to me, please don’t sit next to me…” I mean, I do. And then when someone does, you think, “please don’t talk to me, please don’t talk to me…” They inevitably do. And they usually tell you all about what they do for work. Let me emphasize: They tell you what they do.

A few years ago, I was met with silence and a pissed off expression when someone started telling me about what they do and I replied with “So what.” I was friendly enough about it and smiled, but I think it really caught him off guard. I wasn’t trying to be offensive or rude, I just legitimately wanted to know his story and why he never hit the snooze button in 26 years at 5:30 a.m.

To answer my snarky question, he crumpled his chin and first said, “Money,” as if he believed it himself. I didn’t buy it and still don’t. Money is a cop out. Money always represents a deeper meaning. Freedom. Opportunity. Leisure. Confidence. A lifestyle. These meanings are where the stories lie. This is the level on which I want to each of you to feel comfortable speaking to every client.

Did anyone ever watch The Office? I always loved it and thought it had so much heart. There was one episode, it was called “Local Ad.” Basically, the story line is that Dunder Mifflin corporate sends a video crew to the Scranton branch to produce a big budget flashy 30 second spot that features a clip of the Scranton branch staff waving. It’s super professional and expensive looking, hits all the marketing points and is more or less expected. It focused on what the company did. I don’t really remember much more about it to be honest.

Michael Scott, Steve Carell’s character who I love so much because, despite working in something as mundane as paper sales, somehow fulfills one of his deepest reasons for being—he doesn’t like the cold corporate approach and, with the help of his team, creates his own spot that, of course corporate doesn’t buy, but the staff end up playing amongst themselves at the local tavern. It depicts a piece of paper making a journey around the world, carrying a variety of messages that mean something different and significant to each recipient. It represents a deeper belief that it’s not just paper; I think Michael yells, “IT’S NOT JUST PAPER! GOD!” And he’s right. It carries messages that literally change people’s hearts and minds. There it is. That’s the story I want on every page of The Scout Guide.

So, we can then say, ok: here’s a client who creates custom stationery. It’s beautiful, yes, but I literally have 1000 options for custom stationery. What is her story? Maybe she still has the first letter she gave to her husband? Maybe there is an inspirational quote that encouraged her to start the business. Maybe she writes notes and puts them in her kid’s lunch boxes each day. Those are visual, meaningful, memorable, emotional stories that would absolutely get me to pick up the phone or drive to her shop before simply googling, “custom stationery.”

3. Curate With Respect To Gain Trust

I know I can get pretty mushy and hippy dippy poetic will this stuff, but it’s true. It’s all about being authentic and creating a good story and a good feeling for the right audience. I believe that you have to win hearts before you can win minds. A client must feel good about what they are getting into from the very beginning.

So, when we create and collect their artwork, logos, photos, copy, and anything else essential to building a client’s spread, I want to do it with the utmost respect to their goals and brands. I think that means transparency from the beginning. Reassuring them that we will practice the utmost discipline and respect when considering any alterations to any aspects of the brand or vision. If we do, it is only to serve the larger aesthetic purpose of delivering their story in a clean, simple and beautiful way, without distractions that distract from the feeling we want to illicit.

During creative calls, I always encourage photographers to allow clients to see the photos and make a first choice while on the set at the shoot. If nothing else, it plants a positive seed from the beginning and establishes an initial comfort and trust. The only surprises we want them to experience at the end of the creative process are the amazing responses and admiration they receive from people who call or visit and say, “I saw you in Scout!”

Lastly, we totally respect the outside advice they pay for. By that I mean public relations people, marketing departments, advisors and so forth. It’s important to us, though, that we move our readers who expect a very specific presentation style from The Scout Guide. So, if there are clients who rely on a third party for advice or consulting, we want their feedback starting from the beginning, the creative meeting, so that when the client says approved, that’s a wrap.