Television. AmIright??

Let your TV be your guide. “I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can't stop eating peanuts.” —      Orson Welles

“If television's a babysitter, the Internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.” —Dorothy Gambrell, Cat and Girl Volume I

“The difference between TV and the internet was how far you sat from the screen. TV was an 8 foot activity, and you were a consumer. The internet was a 16 inch activity, and you participated.” —Seth Godin

Want to know the 33 things your television can teach you about storytelling in the Interactive Age? It's all in here.

Create your own buzz or prepare to get stung.

"What have we to talk about, hmmmm?" In the summer of '68, we spent a few days chucking water balloons at a cluster of cicada killer wasps that had gathered on a patch of sap on the oak tree in Billy Clifford’s backyard.

These wasps were huge. And really mean looking. We convinced ourselves that they were going to swoop down and kill the slowest of us unless we took them out first.

But it turns out cicada killer wasps only kill cicadas. It also turns out that these were male cicada killers, which means they didn't even have stingers like female cicada killers do. So rather than defending ourselves, we were, in reality, attempting to commit insecticide.

Since we were eight years old at the time and the patch of sap was about 40 feet above us, we went through a lot of water balloons before we nailed them. But once we did, those wasps exploded into a buzzing frenzy of “What the HELL, man??!! Are you serious?? What’s wrong with you goddamn kids?!”

One of them fell to the ground right in front of us. Well, it actually fell where we had been standing before we scattered like coked-out cockroaches.

Marius Overhand was the first one to go back to see if the wasp was dead. The rest of us followed a sensible distance behind. Once we all gathered around the body, we unknowingly acted out scenes from “The Crowd,” a short story by Ray Bradbury about a crowd of weirdos that would show up at car accidents to decide if the victim lives or dies.

“Is it dead?”

“Yeah, it’s dead.”

“So pick it up, but watch out for the stinger ‘cause they can still sting after they die.”

“I’m not picking it up! YOU pick it up. And no way they can sting you after they’re dead.”

“Can, too!”

“’Fraid not!”

Unfortunately for all involved, this wasp was very much alive—albeit a little stunned—and very, very angry. When it started flapping its wings—which I swear were held in place by rivets—we all bolted in different directions. All of us except Scott Lindholm and Eddie Foley, who banged heads together so hard that they, too, ended up flat on their backs surrounded by a crowd of eight-year-old boys who were busy determining their friends' fate.

“Are they dead?”

“Scott's eyes are open but they're crossed. And Eddie ain't moving. Let's get outta here!"

I bring this up because, much like the crowd in Ray Bradbury’s story, people will always try to tell your story for you if you’re not telling it yourself.

Look at Edward Snowden. After he let the world know that crazy ol’ Uncle Sam is also a "creeper," he fell off the grid, leaving the entire world to define him as a traitor, a hero, a self-indulgent narcissist, and a loser.

The same thing is happening right now with your organization. The Internet hates a vacuum. If you’re not telling your organization’s story, somebody else is. And you can bet that they're using this image Grumpy Cat

to describe you instead of this one. cute kitten


Dove Bomb

"I sure hope people don't think I'm gilding the lily." We asked a cynical old bastard to describe the viral video Real Dove Beauty Sketches to our forensic artist.

"What can you tell me about the video, sir?”

“This video was the biggest crock of sh— the biggest load of malarkey I’ve seen since Kony 2012.”

“How’s that?”

“People think they’re watching a video that celebrates a woman’s inner beauty. But the real message of the video is ‘you’re not as physically unattractive as you think you are, so just go on out there and keep being as physically beautiful as you can be.’”

“I’m going to need some more details.”

“Cool, I took notes. Take this one gal. When she’s looking at the two portraits of herself, she says ‘Chloe’s perception was so, so clearly different. Her picture looked like somebody I thought I would want to talk to and be friends with … like a happy, light, much younger, much brighter person.’

“So if I follow her logic, she is more inclined to ‘talk to’ and ‘be friends with’ someone who appears ‘much younger, much brighter.’ Wow. She’s not just judging the book by its cover. She’s taking age into account, too.

“Now, I’m the first to admit that it’s possible that I twisted the meaning of her words in my typically cynical way. So I watched the video again and took more notes. The blond in the turtle neck says, and I quote: ‘I should be more grateful of my natural beauty. It impacts the choices and the friends that we make, the jobs we apply for, how we treat our children. It impacts everything. It couldn’t be more critical to your happiness.’

“Your ‘natural beauty’ affects ‘how we treat our children’? Paging Steve Buscemi, Child Protective Services on line one.

“Look, this thing was a setup from the start. All of the women in it were physically attractive. The artist was in on the joke, and the piece was produced and edited explicitly to tweak our tear glands. What amazes me is that millions of people fell for it.”

“So what lessons can we learn from this experience?”

“Good question. First, gimmicks sell. As manipulative as it was, the premise of the ‘unbiased’ forensic artist was brilliant. Second, amateur-looking video is hot—even slick, expensive ‘amateur’ videos like this one. It makes the viewer feel closer to the action. And third … perception is reality.”


Anger: The Quicker Picker Upper

“Ya think that’s funny, spilling coffee all over my counter? Get that Jim-Carrey looking so-and-so outta my diner and don’t come back till you’ve learned some manners!” I can’t touch yucky things with my bare hands, not in the kitchen anyway. I’m fine outdoors; I'll flip over a dead squirrel to look for maggots. But in the kitchen, I need a paper towel to pick up a used paper towel.

And that’s why I am furious at Joe Smith.

Joe Smith wants us all to use fewer paper towels. Last year he gave a TED talk on how to dry your hands with just one paper towel. More than one million people watched it. Now every single time I grab a paper towel, I am reminded that 1.2 million people saw Joe Smith dry his hands on TED (TED! for the love of God) and I can’t even get my kids to watch a 20-second clip of me on Crossfire.

Occasionally, I am able to blot out my envy of Joe’s success with happy thoughts of Tiny “Tiptoe Through the Tulips" Tim who, among many other peculiarities, would use a whole roll of paper towels to dry off after bathing. This guy was a diesel-powered earth-mover in the paper-towel forest. These thoughts of Tiny Tim help, but I don’t think of him nearly as often which, it turns out, is completely normal.

Negative emotions make your stories more memorable

According to Psychology Today, “People ruminate about events that induce strong negative emotions five times as long as they do about events that induce strong positive ones.”

A Case Western University study, cryptically entitled Bad Is Stronger than Good, says “The greater power of bad events over good ones is found in everyday events … Bad emotions, bad parents, and bad feedback have more impact than good ones, and bad information is processed more thoroughly than good.”

There’s a reason for this, of course. These negative emotions—fear, anger, sadness, envy—generally require some sort of action on our part to rid ourselves of them. Negative emotions, fear foremost among them, have literally kept our species alive.

So if you want to tell a memorable story, you’re going to have to mess with people’s chi. You don’t have to be a jerk about it. In fact, you should almost always give your audience a chance to work their way out of the negative emotions you've put on them, as storyteller Michael Margolis explains.

But you need to inflict the pain at some point if you want your story to be memorable.


Going! Going! Gone Postal! Lessons from the USPS on the importance of telling your story

"What do you know snurfing, brah? You're from goddamned New Jersey!" I loved playing lawn darts when I was a kid. The only thing that even came close to the thrill of throwing deadly weapons at each other was “arrow tag,” which consisted of us standing around Billy Shoemaker as he shot an arrow straight up and then running around like blind mole rats to avoid getting hit when it came down. If you got hit, you lost … a lot of blood. A simple game, really, but very stimulating.

My sister, Mary Beth, really liked her Hoppity Hop. I wasn’t very comfortable with it, though. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was hopping on something that would require significant medical attention when I was done.

My brother, Michael, was a snurfer dude. Even after busting his skull on a metal fence post in Jeff Miller’s back yard, he waxed up that board and went snurfing every time it snowed.

Lawn Darts: Culling the weak and slow from suburban neighborhoods since 1963.

I bring this up because, of those three staples of 1960s suburbia, only the snurfer has survived. And it did so by adapting to a rapidly changing childhood recreational environment. In this case, the adaptation was driven by Jake Burton Carpenter who, by tweaking the original snurfer, created the world’s first snowboard. And then, he went out and created the world’s first demand for snowboards.

First, he cajoled local ski resorts into opening their lifts to “snowboarders” to increase awareness and demand. Then he sold snowboards at the nascent National Snowboarding Championships to increase sales and brand awareness. Then, to own the market, he bought the National Snowboarding Championships and turned it into the world renowned Burton US Snowboarding Championships (Feb. 25 – March 2, Vail, CO). You see the trend.

Meanwhile, the USPS just announced that it's canceling Saturday deliveries due to crushing debt which is directly linked to the Internet and a completely disenfranchised public. (For some perspective, more people care that Monopoly replaced the iron with a cat.)

Carpenter built his snowboard empire by telling people why they want a polyurethane-coated hunk of wood. The USPS is losing its empire because they never took the time to tell us their 200-year story of adventure and goodwill. The opportunities were limitless—tales of Ben Franklin and the Pony Express, birthday cards with quarters taped on the inside, brown paper packages tied up with string. These are a few of our favorite things, but we’ve become distracted by other things—like the snowboarding championships.

It’s not enough to have a good product, a dependable service, or a vital mission. It’s not even enough to have a great story to tell (as the USPS has). If you want to thrive in the digital age, you must communicate the story behind the great product to build emotional connections with your audience. Because if people don’t care about your product, they won’t care about your product.


How Tequila Marketing Opportunity

"This is breaking fast, sister. I need this story on everybody's doorstep by tomorrow morning! That's right, I said, "tomorrow"! What do Oreo Cookies and Jose Cuervo Gold have in common?

Nothing. And it should probably stay that way. The mere thought of an Oreo-rita makes me … let’s just say, uncomfortable. But Team Jose Cuervo can still learn a trick or two from Team Oreo-acle.

On Sunday night (that’s the night that the lights went out in Nawlins), Oreo carped the diem by conceiving, creating, approving, and tweeting a graphic ad that capitalized on the Superdome’s power struggle—in just five minutes.

The ad got retweeted 15,000 times, and the brilliant marketing move was talked about worldwide. For free.

Jose Cuervo, on the other hand, was MIA on a night they should have owned. Think about it. What does the Spanish word “cuervo” mean? Raven (well, actually “crow,” but you get my point). And what were the 49ers panning for? Gold. Correct.

Soooo … ?

So you have a Super Bowl that pits the “Cuervos” against the freakin’ “Golds”! The possibilities for drink recipes alone are mind-boggling. How about a "Tequila Mockingbird" for the San Francisco Chroniclers? Or "Gold on the Rocks" for the Raven lunatics?

And yet there is not one chirp, not one “Eureka!” from the good folks at Jose Cuervo, Inc. That, my friends, is marketing malpractice.

Don’t let your story be trumped by a cookie. Learn from Jose’s gaffe and Oreos’ staff. According to The Washington Post, Oreo’s ad team “required that ad agency and client executives be at the same place at the same time” which was a “social-media commend center” at its digital ad agency 360i in NYC.

That is the reality of storytelling today. You’ve gotta be quick. You’ve gotta be relevant. And you have got to execute. The days of “running it by legal” are over.