Telling Stories

I like lots of things. There are so many different fields I’m interested in and there is so much to learn so I’ve thrown myself into a wide range of jobs and internships in all kinds of places. This past week, I started a new internship at McKinney, an incredible advertising agency in Durham, NC.

Storytelling. A powerful tool that isn’t quite as simple as it might seem. Anyone can tell a story, but it takes excellent strategy and top-notch creativity to tell a story that goes viral, to tell a story that incites action, to tell a story that reaches the masses and resonates with their beliefs. McKinney, according to its CEO Brad Brinegar, is a “business that believes in human connections and a company that believes there aren’t enough big ideas.” Simply put, McKinney tells great stories on behalf of clients including Nationwide Insurance, Samsung, Sherwin-Williams, Travelocity, ESPN and The Coca-Cola Company, that get people thinking.

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I became interested in advertising when I started understanding that a vital thing often missing from the non-profit world is the ability to reach an enormous audience with a compelling story that incites action and initiates change. You can do great work, but if no one knows about it, it’s hard to grow. A couple of classes ago, Gary Kayye was discussing the power of good story telling. My takeaway was that if you simply tell a room of republicans and democrats from the get-go that gay marriage should be legal, there will be heated, angry debate. If you tell them the right story in the right way about a couple falling in love – make the issue human and connect at the core – then maybe the conversation is different. The power to direct conversations, to spread a message and touch people’s belief systems can be the power to change the world.

So I started looking into it. An ad agency seemed like the type of place I’d like to be. It’s young, things change every day and ad people believe in the magic of taking a wild, unique idea and running with it until it lives and breathes in the real world. Working in an agency means constantly working with creative people and constantly learning. When I set my mind to it, things started falling into place and here I am, almost 5 months later, working as the social media intern. It really felt like the stars aligned. Being at UNC meant that I already had a few connections, I had a lot in common with Laura Suchoski, my interviewer and manager, and I believe social is integral in the future of interactive digital campaigning. When I discovered I would primarily be working on the Travelocity Roaming Gnome campaign and that Laura is working on a 10% passion project that revolves around getting teen girls to use social media in an empowering way, I knew this was the right move. I couldn’t really wrap my head around the sheer coincidence of getting two projects that align so closely with my passions, but I figured I’d better ride this awesome wave of coincidence and see where it takes me.

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Week 1 has been fantastic. I’m pretty far outside my comfort zone (I’ve never even taken an advertising class before) but I’m pumped for the challenge. Laura rocks – she’s effective, passionate, on top of everything, so sweet, and people keep telling me how lucky I am to have her as a mentor. The people are beyond welcoming and I already feel like I belong. The space is absolutely unreal – the office is a converted tobacco warehouse that is designed to spark innovation and conversation, complete with an in-house pub, two coffee bars, pool tables, ping pong tables, an x-box, etc., etc. The CEO introduced himself simply as ‘Brad’ over a beer on Thursday and shook my hand, and then sat down with all the new interns the next day to talk, offer advice and answer questions. They’ve included me in meetings, have encouraged me to challenge myself and meet everyone and I’m already so inspired. I know this is going to be an incredible and highly educational experience that I’m going to love and I’m looking forward to learning how to tell the best stories I can tell.

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