Mark Hamill is a good guy. I’ve been lucky enough to meet him on a couple of occasions in the past, and was looking forward to his closing keynote at the recent Content Marketing World conference in Cleveland. But the keynote address from the man best known for playing the hero of the Star Wars movies never materialized, instead Mark sat down for a Q&A session with Content Marketing Institute founder Joe Pulizzi that proved to be both highly entertaining and thought provoking.
Hamill endeared himself to the audience straight away by referencing a blog post from content marketer Michael Brenner, which despite its provocative title sets out a coherent thesis on the connections between the hero’s journey that informs the Star Wars mythos and storytelling in marketing. And it was to storytelling that Hammill returned to several times during his conversation by reinforcing that the most effective form of communication, the one that we are all hardwired to understand, is storytelling.
The basics of effective storytelling is key not just to marketing, but to all business communications.
While “Luke Skywalker” was entertaining, it was another guest earlier in the day that proved to be the inspiration of the conference. When comedian Michael Jr. was introduced no-one really knew what to expect. His brand of observational stand-up humor soon had everyone laughing, not an easy thing to achieve on the last morning of an intensive conference, but it was his asides about how you tackle challenges that inspired. In particular he outlined the idea that in life and professionally, it’s not so much about what we do, it’s about why we do it. The ‘what’ can change many times (it’s the tactical aspect), but the ‘why’ (the strategy) should remain the constant.
The same applies to any business transaction, and communication.
What we do won’t matter and won’t achieve success unless we know why we are doing it.
On the flight home after the conference I thought again about that last day. I’ve been to innumerable conferences in my career, and enjoyed most of them, I’ve listened to some great speakers, even some brilliant ones, deliver a wide variety of keynotes, but they all tended to be speakers that you would expect for any given conference topic. Yet here at a marketing conference was a comedian and a movie actor providing some of the most powerful insights, and judging by the Twitter stream for the conference hashtag, the most memorable moments.
It made me think, how are we delivering our story? Are we using the usual line-up of experts and influencers? Maybe it’s good to consider bringing fresh eyes and voices that create as powerful an impact as a Jedi Knight and a joker did for me that week in Cleveland.