28 March 2018: Being a SXSW virgin, coming into the conference I was nervous and naturally curious on what to expect. I have heard from so many people that it is bigger than any festival you have been to before and attracts people from around the world who are film buffs, music lovers, creative leaders, CEOs, singers, the works.
SXSW explores “what’s next in the worlds of film, culture, music, and technology.” There is a free drink and a food truck at every corner – I feel like I’m about to become a human taco. Plus not to mention various brand activations on the next corner. However, what I did take away will guide me as a storyteller and I gained some truly inspiring life lessons.
My main takeaways are:
- Live your most authentic (brand) life
- The technology revolution is upon us and we need to evolve
- Human connection is more important than ever
One line that will always stay with me is from keynote speaker Esther Perel – “relationships… they are your story, write well and edit often.” It stayed with me throughout SXSW and has reinforced that the quality of our relationships is what determines the quality of our lives, both in and out of work.
How can brands avoid social purgatory?
The Yes Vote. #metoo. Brexit. Donald Trump. The world has permanently changed and brands don’t have a choice when it comes to taking a position on social issues. And we live in a time where ‘nothing’ is not an option. If and when consumers look to your brand to communicate its values, silence may be more damaging than taking a stance. Proactively communicating your values is more effective than reacting to a crisis scenario. When it comes to our clients in Australia, we need to start asking the question ‘what are the core beliefs that our brand is willing to publicly reflect, and why?’ I was moved by Latia Curry and her session around issue advocacy and influencing the way businesses think and respond to social issues.
In fact, a survey from Edelman published in June 2017 found consumers are 30% more likely to make a purchase decision based on a brand’s beliefs than just three years ago. This is especially true for younger consumers, 66% of American millennial respondents say they make purchasing decisions based on a brand’s beliefs. Be warned – not being prepared to answer “The Question” is as bad as your brand having the wrong answer. That same study found 65% of respondents would not buy a brand due to its silence on an issue they cared about. In other words, if you’re unwilling to speak or take a position on an issue, to own your perspective, you run the risk of your perspective being determined for you. Remember – your audiences are being asked the same questions that they are asking of you. They are looking to brands to help them signal their values, either by engaging with them or critiquing them.
Pay attention to the humanity
The main theme for SXSW was how we are keeping the human connection around the technology revolution. Many sessions were dominated around augmented and virtual reality and emerging technologies. However, when the world is accelerating at this rapid state we need to open ourselves to technology but not let it dominate us. We are human beings and we are forgetting the human connection – we need to use technology to better our lives and enhance these connections. Inspiring Uber brand chief Bozoma Saint John stood out to me and said “Creativity – where do the best ideas come from? Everything we do in life has to come back to the people. How do we interact with different people to make us greater?”
The power of storytelling to build connections
As storytellers, regardless of any industry we work in, we need to be naturally curious, ask questions, continue to be motivated and remember we must tell our own story or someone else will tell it for us. In one way or another, each storyteller injects their own excitement, their fear, their purpose into whatever tale they’re telling. We need to rely on this to help build deeper connections with the people we encounter.
Overall, SXSW is a great place to step outside your comfort zone and gain new insights from industry leaders. It is a place to learn and also think about the connections we make along the way and how these skills can be applied to make us better storytellers.
Written by Jordan Bradley, Head of Publicity, Pulse Communications