“If you don’t like what its being said, change the conversation” — Don Draper, Mad Men.

Last week I met with family member Len Sirowitz, a retired Art Director who witnessed the advertising revolution of the 50’s and 60’s from very close, working at Bernbach and VW. I watched some episodes of Mad Men in the past, and I found the story fascinating; the men that transformed the way businesses work by changing their companies’ approach towards clients. The first question that came to my mind - unrelated to the main topic - was the accuracy of the TV show about the whole fancy drama behind the advertising business. Lenny quickly and vehemently denied: “I mean, there were always those guys who would have affairs, but they (the show ) emphasises the drinking and partying too much and very little on the actual creative revolution, which went on.” After realising that not all successful men in the business were like Don Draper and his partners, I delved more into his role within the revolution itself. I was curious to know how and why the change in advertisement came about. He passionately explained about the creative and artistic aspect of advertising, showing me some of the work he did. “It’s all about making the audience feel like they relate to the ad and therefore to the product” Lenny said. These businessmen realised that the secret ingredient to selling, is triggering the right emotions, complemented with the correct usage of words and appealing images. Today, this is common knowledge, but Lenny and men like him, pioneered this industry. Journalists and real Mad Men, like Lenny, share the common goal of persuading their audience to consume whatever they are selling or promoting; whether this might be a product, service or content, the conversation I had with Lenny proves that the formula can be applied to any social-oriented activity.

As social journalists, we don’t strive to manipulate with selling as the outcome. We do however inform and appeal to our readers to better communicate and positively affect the world. This is where Lenny’s formula is key to the process: knowing who our audience is, what their interests are, is the information about them accurate in order to create relevant, tailored and engaging pieces especially when the content foreign to the audience. Guest speaker Mitra Kalita talked about how she likes to focus on “universal stories” to make foreign news personal. Using multiple elements that enable readers to relate to the story like Mitra mentioned objects and food, topics that are relevant to everyone. More specifically toilet paper? We all use toilet paper! This advice is very valuable, not only to succeed in our individual communities but also for the non-profit organizations we are working with. They all have important stories to tell, but it is our goal to learn how to articulate and deliver them in order to reach a larger audience.

Picture taken from ‘Dear Lenny’ interview by Dave Dye, on “The Stuff From The Loft” blog. http://davedye.com/2015/03/10/dear-lenny/

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