Liveblogging from the Word of Mouth Marketing Association

Talking from Wikimedia CommonsI’m here at the opening keynote session at the Word of Mouth Marketing Association summit here in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Kitchen Sisters are speaking about the Art of Storytelling. Speakers are Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva. Keep refreshing this page for updates.

* Note: I’m reporting both on what is happening in these sessions but I’m also commenting on the content throughout. Any questions listed without attribution of the source are mine.

08:17 – The world is made of stories more than atoms. Substantive product are valued only so much as the stories that support them. The Kitchen Sisters wanted to address serious issues about food – homelessness and hunger, and so on – in their programme on National Public Radio about food.

George Foreman’s dreams of having enough to eat have been translated into collective action for homeless people through the ‘Hidden Kitchen’ initiative, where a George Foreman Grill was used to assist homeless people in communities to cook together.

The stories about people who either struggled to get access to food or who were not permitted to cook massively changed the perception of the brand.

Another example is cited, focusing on the history of the Frito, and the growth of the business. This is a ‘hidden kitchen’ in almost a garage based operation which grew to a huge snack food product.

For the Kitchen Sisters, the channel through which they are presenting – public radio – is an immediate and story-oriented platform through which projects like the ‘Hidden Kitchen’ initiative are ideally suited.

But clearly the programme and its stories have a strong commercial focus. And yet their gentle, documentary style format is rather unique to the US. There are obvious questions whether the history or appropriation of commercial brands in either entrepreneurial or public interest initiatives would be able to be broadcast anywhere else in the world. In the UK, BBC is distinctly forbidden to profile specific commercial initiatives and the same goes for the ABC in Australia. Commercial radio networks in either the UK or Australia are unlikely to broadcast these story-based initiatives, and community (public) radio is less likely to be heard in either location.

Thus a clear question arises as to how these stories could reach the kind of audience of the US National Public Radio station in an alternative media online. Could podcasts ever generate the listenership of these public radio sources (average 14 million listeners of any programme)?

The Kitchen Sisters say that audience want to be galvanised to support an initiative.

[JJ’s comment: This is a classic cultural difference between the US and other parts of the world. Public education on issues is not so simple elsewhere in the world.]

They list a few other hidden kitchens – the civil rights kitchen in Alabama, the Nascar kitchen feeding the community of participants at events, and so on. Recipes act in the hidden kitchen series as a means of providing a semi-tangible output from a story adds to the perceived value of the story.

The Sisters focus on the value of content considered to be intriguing because they are ‘below-the-radio’ content, and they note that telling stories with heart and passion, as well as decent casting for content is crucial to ensure that the story is likely to be embraced.

The Sisters conclude with 10 Tips:

  1. Give the story a face
  2. Tell the backstory – it’s what people tell to their freibds
  3. Stories beget stories
  4. Audiences want to be galvanised
  5. People love knowing about something secret, underground, below the radar
  6. Remember the ‘Rule of 3’
  7. Summon the elders
  8. It’s all within 10 feet
  9. Funny is good
  10. Heart is even better.

Questions from the floor ask about the legitimacy of the content in the documentaries. The Sisters note that there are fact-checkers that work with the programme.

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