What if you could ask your communications heroes to share with you their storytelling tips? The values that drive them? Their most cherished life lessons?
The Matrix Awards, hosted by New York Women in Communications, honored extraordinary women whose accomplishments range from leading marketing efforts for the 124 year old global brand GE to being the first female managing editor of TIME Magazine to creating the hit show Girls. Each award was presented by an another influential woman in communications. The result was an incredible panel packed with advice, anecdotes and inspiration.
Here are 7 takeaways brand storytellers can learn from the 2016 Matrix Award honorees.
Liz Kaplow: Share Human Stories
Liz Kaplow is a pioneer of brand storytelling. Her agency, Kaplow Communications, helps brands like Target, Conair and Skype share their messages with massive audiences, with a human touch. Check out this familiar, personal anchor video for Kaplow’s “Just Say Hello” campaign with O, The Oprah Magazine and Skype.
It was clear from her award presentation that Kaplow is a people person. Her presenter, Chief Communications Officer for Hearst Debra Shriver, called her “part Holly Golightly, part George Bailey.” Wynton Marsalis took the stage to play “When the Saints Go Marching In” to celebrate her work helping people in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. And that passion for people is what drives her and her agency.
“There’s nothing better than helping people who are passionate about their brand tell their stories.”
The Takeaway: A brand shouldn’t be a faceless company. The stories of the people behind the scenes and the people who love your brand are worth telling.
Linda Boff: Be Inventive
Linda Boff is the Chief Marketing Officer at GE. Her path has been anything but predictable – her resume includes positions in finance, museums and agency communications. She told the crowd she built her career by “making up what happens next.”
“I loved the new, and I hated the monotony.”
She said her unpredictable path is what prepared her to lead transformation at GE, which she called, “a 124 year old startup.” As media channels change, Boff and her team must adapt and reinvent how they tell GE’s stories, just as the company reinvents itself to stay relevant. She pointed to GE founder Thomas Edison’s famous quote, “I have not failed 10,000 times – I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work,” and encouraged audience members to take risks and try something new.
The Takeaway: Start fresh and innovate. Learn from your winding path and your failures along the way.
Carol Hamilton: The Connection Between Beauty and Philanthropy
Carol Hamilton is known for her 30 years of leadership at L’Oréal USA, as well as her passion for philanthropy. She told the crowd how the brand’s trademark slogan, “Because I’m Worth It,” resonated with her before she joined L’Oréal and continues to drive her work today. She is a champion of gender equality and works to help people around the world through partnerships with organizations like The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund and UNICEF. She drew a connection between beauty and philanthropy, explaining that the language of beauty communicates itself in philanthropic endeavors.
Check out this video on one of L’Oreal’s “Women of Worth,” a project that honors women who live the company’s philosophy and awards them $10,000 to support their causes.
The Takeaway: Draw a connection between your brand’s mission and how you can take it the extra mile to make a difference in the world.
Nancy Dubuc: Stronger Together
Presenter and CNN Special Correspondent Jamie Gangel called Nancy Dubuc a triple threat, “creative, brilliant and not afraid to take chances.” When it was Dubuc’s turn to take the stage, the President and CEO of A+E Networks credited people like Gangel for her success. She drew a line between her sailing experience growing up in Rhode Island and her work, explaining how her crew on the water covered for each other’s weaknesses. She encouraged the audience find people you trust, and build a crew that can work with your strengths and weaknesses.
The Takeaway: Collaborate with your teammates, ask for help when you need it (which requires acknowledging your weaknesses) and work together for a stronger result.
Nancy Gibbs: Be a Storyteller
Nancy Gibbs is the first female managing editor of TIME, and she has written more cover stories for the magazine than any other writer in its 93 year history. Presenter and award winning journalist Katie Couric told the crowd, “Nancy is a great writer because she is the perfect combination of head and heart.”
Gibbs pointed to how stories of real people shape the conversation around important social issues to highlight the importance of storytelling. She shared how she is influenced by her millennial daughters, and explained that while the landscape for sharing our stories is changing, storytelling will remain “a truth as old as the campfire and as new as the tweet.”
“The future belongs to those who can excite and inspire.”
This powerful profile on actress Priyanka Chopra, part of Gibbs’ behind the scenes look at the 2016 TIME 100 Most Influential People, illustrates her point.
The Takeaway: Whether you’re tweeting, Instagramming, blogging or video marketing, tell a great story. As the tools we use to communicate change, a meaningful human story still has the most power to move your audience.
Mellody Hobson: Be Like Prince
Mellody Hobson is the president of Ariel Investments, chairperson of the board for DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc., director of The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. and Starbucks Corporation, and a regular finance contributor for a number of media outlets. And that’s just a quick summary of her resume! But this unique powerhouse united the crowd by pointing out something we all have in common:
“We’ve all danced to music by Prince.”
Hobson shared how Prince lived her mother’s favorite rhyme, “Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all.” She said when the artist played at her wedding to George Lucas, he treated the small event like a concert or the Oscar’s.
“Prince was unapologetically original,” she added, encouraging audience members to celebrate their uniqueness.
— NY Women in Comm. (@NYWICI) April 26, 2016
The Takeaway: Give every project your best work, no matter how big or small it is. Celebrate your own originality as a creative, and bring something new to your brand’s storytelling.
Janice Min: Embrace Your Quirks
Janice Min is Co-President and Chief Creative Officer of The Hollywood Reporter-Billboard Media Group. Her presenter, Chairman of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Bonnie Hammer, called her “the master of magazine makeover.”
Min told the crowd that her differences made her an outlier from a young age – something she shares with many of the people she’s met in Hollywood.
“The most successful creative people you know about today grew up weird.”
Min encouraged the audience members to embrace their quirks (everyone has one). It is the things that make us different that help us bring something unique and new to the table. And she should know – you can’t become “the master of magazine makeover” without the ability to think outside the box.
The Takeaway: Don’t worry about trying to hide the “bug” that makes you different. Use your quirks to your team’s advantage.
Lena Dunham: Listen to Your Peers
Lena Dunham is the creator and star of the HBO show Girls, which she also directs, writes and produces. She was honored at the Matrix Awards by her friend and mentor, activist and feminist organizer Gloria Steinem.
When Dunham took the podium, she admitted her speech was unprepared. She said she had known that listening to the other Matrix Award winners would be “transformative,” and would inspire her to come up with some advice on the fly. And in the end, her advice was just that – listen to your peers, learn from your mentors, and pass it on.
The Takeaway: Listen to the advice of these incredible Matrix Award winners, as well as your own mentors. Take their words to heart and apply them in your work!