Story vs. Slogan – Invoking or Addressing our Audience?

I have been watching and reading a blog conversation between a few colleagues of mine surrounding the idea of Story vs. Slogans (Spike Jones and Amy Taylor). This topics absolutely fascinates me and actually plays a role in the discussion I have been having with another colleague Mack Collier surrounding do we address our audience needs or do we invoke our audience.

This discussion takes me back to a piece of scholarship that was written in the early 80′s surrounding the topic: audience addressed and audience invoked. As I re-read the article, I always find myself referring to one final point of Edes and Lusford’s conclusion…

“A fully elaborated view of audience, then, must balance the creativity of the writer with the different, but equally important, creativity of the reader.”

We write in tension but I think we have to find a balance between invoking the audience (creating a division in the writer and reader’s roles) and addressing the audiences’ needs (the reality the audience exist and that the written text is created in concert).

So what does this have to do with Story vs. Slogan…well a lot. But I want to look at something that Spike said in his post from December 2008:

Stories live forever. Slogans live until the ad agency gets tired of them.
Stories are real. Slogans are made up.
Stories pull you in. Slogans try and push out a message.
Stories are deep. Slogans are shallow.
Stories are personal. Slogans are impersonal.
Stories are passed on by word of mouth. Slogans are passed on by ads.

This dichotomy between “Story vs. Slogan” and “Audience Addressed vs. Audience Invoked” has me thinking…are we addressing the needs of our audience by pushing slogans down people’s throats? It sounds more like we are trying to invoke something that is unnatural and detached.

So what really makes a story different from a slogan? Spike wrote that “Stories are real. Slogans are made up.” What makes stories real and slogans just made up. Well, it is the act of listening…because stories are told over and over again: they recount a place and time in history. They connect the very fabric of our being with human emotion. When we tell a story, we are sharing something that is tangible in our hearts and minds that invokes emotion and connection.

I am not a slogan person or a person that relishes the task of creating positioning statements and branded tag lines. I like to capture stories as they happen, capture that moment in time that are true moments, those that help us remember.

Last summer I found myself in Andrews, NC working on a project for the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church… telling stories of rural churches. Every Thursday night, the Andrews UMC has a dinner for the community called the Welcome Table. The illustration of this blog post is not the story of this video, but one little moment in time when I am interviewing the pastor. One of the children walks up and gives him a hug in the middle of the interview…at the most appropriate time. This pastor will be telling this story for years…thus reinforcing the mission of “The Welcome Table.”

We can advocated for stories over slogan’s everyday of the week…but we must be willing to open our hearts so that we can capture those moments in time to share. This is what invokes our audience to share.

Here is the video of “The Welcome Table” for your to enjoy!