Unleashing Trojan Horses for the Mind
Rob McCollum: How can you make this more intense, personally, for this person in this moment? How can we raise personal stakes? And, raising the stakes, is always the key to storytelling.
Perry Carpenter: That was the voice of Rob McCollum. He's a voice actor who has appeared in or, more accurately, been heard in literally hundreds of Anime films, like Attack on Titan. Also in video games, like Borderlands 2 and, on top of that, Rob is a screenwriter, a podcast producer and so much more.
Perry Carpenter: And so about now, you're probably asking yourself, why you should care and what any of this means.
Rob McCollum: It's like, okay, you're on a plane, there's a big storm. Alright, now the pilot's gone, now, the pilot's gone, there's a big storm and there are snakes on the plane.
Perry Carpenter: It means that Rob knows a thing or two about increasing the emotional impact of words and situations.
Rob McCollum: Like, okay, how can we raise the emotional stakes? It would be great if the person that you are supposed to meet is late and you're worried about them. It's more important that they are your mother who's been abducted by aliens. Like, how can we continue to raise the emotional stakes for the characters? Again, this is something that we've talked about. For emotion to matter, you have to have actual people in your stories. It cannot be the cipher of employee number one. We need to know that employee number one is Jessica. She's in her third week at this job, she is trying to impress her boss. There needs to be an actual human being, to be able to convey the story of that emotion and I feel like that building of character is where a lot of corporate and business storytellers, that we talk about all the time, really drop the bomb.
Perry Carpenter: There's a famous phrase that you've probably heard. It's one of those that you hear as part of popular culture, but you may not know where it comes from. It made an appearance as an audio sample, in the beginning of a song by Guns 'n' Roses and the phrase has been uttered by characters in movie after movie; from Take the Money and Run, to Smokey and the Bandit, to movies like Ernest Saves Christmas, Waterworld and more, and it's been used in countless TV shoes as well. Like, Californication, CSI, NCIS, Kyle XY, Zena and even in the sci-fi TV show, Farscape. Across the universe, this phrase has been uttered.
Perry Carpenter: The quote is from a speech in the 1967 movie, Cool Hand Luke. A character known as the Captain strikes a man. The Captain is not a good guy. He's striking a prisoner, to keep that prisoner down. The prisoner rolls down an embankment to join his fellow prisoners, is blooded and sweating, panting and afraid. Then the Captain speaks these now famous words:
Captain in Cool Hand Luke: What we've got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can't reach.
Perry Carpenter: What we've got here is failure to communicate.
Perry Carpenter: I think we can all relate to that as cybersecurity professionals. Not to the being the bad guy part and trying to keep people down; though, people may accuse us of that every now and then. But we struggle with getting our messages across. We write policies, we craft newsletters, we hold brown bag lunches; but, all too often, all of that well-intentioned effort just doesn't seem to make any difference. So what can we do? In this episode, we explore how to increase the impact of our messages, bypass mental defenses and up the success of our communications. All of that after this.
Perry Carpenter: Hello. My name is Perry Carpenter. Join me for a deep dive into what cybersecurity professionals refer to as the eighth layer of security: Humans. This podcast is a multidisciplinary exploration into the complexities of human nature and how those complexities impact everything; from why we think the things that we think, to why we do the things that we do, and how we can all make better decisions every day. Welcome to 8th Layer Insights. I'm your host, Perry Carpenter.
Perry Carpenter: I'll kick us off with an admission and that is, that I love Trojans.
Carl: Trojan Man.
Perry Carpenter: No, not those kinds of Trojans, Carl. But, thank you for the sound cue.
Perry Carpenter: What I'm interested in is finding ways to communicate that have the ability to capture an audience's attention; connect with their humanity; and embed that message in their mind, all by making it compelling. You see, when we use these techniques intentionally and skillfully and we use those elements together, we actually wield a superpower. The ability to consistently create messages that people remember and care about. When designed well, with intentionality and skill, our messages can sneak past all of the competing noise and all of the other messages and distractions around and they can embed themselves into the minds of our audience. In other words, we successfully create Trojan horses for the mind.
Perry Carpenter: What is a Trojan horse for the mind, you might ask? Well, I wrote about these in my book a couple of years ago and, if I just flip through the page here, where I talk about them, I see that I actually describe four. The first one is emotion, the second is visuals, the third is sound and the fourth is words and story. Now, when you think about it, all of these are interrelated. When somebody tells a good story, one of their major goals is to evoke emotion. They want to paint pictures within our mind, they want to fill our minds with the sound of their voice; with the images that they paint, using the power of their words and with the feelings that they can draw out of us. These are tools that each of us have, as communicators. We are all storytellers.
Perry Carpenter: So now, let's become detectives together. Let's exam each of these elements; emotions; visuals; sounds; words and story. Let's see how each of these work together, to help us move past cold facts and figures and logic and toward winning hearts and minds.
Joe Lazauskas: About 12 years ago, DARPA, which is a semi-secret agency inside the Department of Defense, put out this call for neuroscience research because they wanted to understand the science of propaganda, essentially.
Perry Carpenter: That's Joe Lazauskas. He's the co-author of a book called The Storytelling Edge and the Head of Marketing at Contently.
Joe Lazauskas: In Afghanistan, when they wanted to win over the hearts and minds of civilians, so those civilians would then go and help out the troops instead of reporting their locations to insurgents and getting them blown up, they wanted to understand how to tell better stories to change the minds of those folks.
Perry Carpenter: It's important for us to realize that, all of us as humans are in the communication business. We're all about changing hearts and minds and, over the past several years, a lot of great research has gone into how to effectively persuade people. Some of that has, of course, come from the marketing community; trying to sell us more stuff. But, also, some of it has come from government research.
Joe Lazauskas: Their tactics to date really weren't working. They were dropping leaflets from the air that was essentially a boring memo. They were trying very dry PSA addresses over the radio. They wanted to find out, for neuroscience research, how they could better change people's minds. That led to a lot of funding for different initiatives that were going on; inside different universities, or private ventures.
Perry Carpenter: There are two Trojan horses that are typically unleashed together; one is storytelling. Storytelling is kind of an uber Trojan horse because it can invoke, or evoke any of the other three. But the horse that it is so often paired with is emotion. Those two are warhorses that ride into battle together oh so often.
Rob McCollum: Anything you can do...
Perry Carpenter: That's Rob McCollum again.
Rob McCollum: ...to remind people of the emotions of laugher, of fear, of shame or terror; times that you were nervous, times that you were uncomfortable, really, really stick in terms of memory and so you want to try to bring in as much off that as possible.
Perry Carpenter: You know, Rob, I'm wondering if you can tell us a little bit about that. Where do storytelling and emotion come together?
Rob McCollum: There's some great storytelling research, actually, that talks about the way our minds react, when we are fed stories. When you hear a story and you're told about the emotion of the character in that story; as opposed to just saying, Gary walked down a dark and stormy road, saying, Gary's heart increased, his breathing increased, he saw images of every terrible thing that had ever happened to him in a dark place; as he imagined what could happen moving down this road. You start laying in the emotional descriptors. What they have found is, the brain is not just triggered in the areas of hearing and filing away data, but the areas that cause your heart rate to speed up. The areas that cause your breathing to speed up. The places in your hippocampus that respond to the actual sensations being described, are also triggered in that moment.
Rob McCollum: What that does is allows 35 different pathways to that memory, that you're trying to build; that that experience that you're having, instead of the one feed of, like, I read this on Thursday, here were the words on that page and there's a single track to that file drawer, now there's 35; there's the sound, there's the emotional contact, that was the feeling you had, there was the memory of 35 other times I had that feeling, that now is tied to this. So suddenly, you've created all these links. It's like hyper-linking the brain. You think it's going in, in one way, but it actually is hiding a lot more within it and has a lot more connections to it.
Perry Carpenter: When we want our audience to remember something, we have to realize that it's so much more than just words on the page. We know how to connect with them, we know the best way to do it. It is tapping into this primal force that we've had, as a species, since the beginning of language. It's the ability to tell a story, interlace that story with emotion, so that we can connect with the part of the other person that is just like us. That means that part of good communication, comes down to a sense of empathy.
Stephanie Paul: Hello, I'm Stephanie Paul and I'm most well-known for being an Executive Storyteller Coach and Trainer. I also work in leadership and various forms of communication around our biology and the science behind how we communicate.
Perry Carpenter: Stephanie, we're talking about emotion and shared experience and the way that all of that can connect us and help people create better communication and dialog that is memorable. Tell us a little bit, for example, about how, when we laugh, that might connect us, or help us retain some memory?
Stephanie Paul: When we laugh, we release about 11 hormones and some of those hormones are the basics, like dopamine and serotonin; the things that we want more of and make us feel good. But there's a couple of others that make us very alert; make us very awake; make us feel euphoric. If you pack all that into one thing, most people are going to remember that moment more efficiently and effectively, than if you're just droning on with a monotone voice and you're just lecturing like this and everybody's supposed to remember.
Perry Carpenter: Confession time. It's at this point, when Stephanie is speaking, that I feel really called out.
Stephanie Paul: Just the sound of a fan, for example, is very habitual. It might be annoying at first in the office, but eventually, you get used to it and you don't hear the fan anymore. That's why, when training, we must use forms of story and forms of humor and forms of getting people engaged through their own biology, because, they actually learn better and faster and remember things. Because we remember through pitches, sounds and feelings too.
Perry Carpenter: As I was talking to them, Stephanie and Rob and Joe all raised a few interesting things that were in common. One was that emotions matter; they make people connect and they help people remember the content of our communication.
Stephanie Paul: I haven't met a person yet who doesn't have some kind of personality disorder, that hasn't made friends, family, colleagues, children, at some point laugh in their life. Because, what we laugh at and what we connect to is commonality. It's, "oh my God, you slipped on that banana too?" Those are the things that we laugh at. As humans, we laugh at commonality.
Perry Carpenter: Another interesting thing that came out was that, no emotion is off limits. There are uses for positive emotions and bonding experiences, like laughter; but there are also uses for negative emotions, that bring us down, or might scare us, or might help us empathize in a negative way with a situation.
Stephanie Paul: Behavior, or emotions are neither positive, nor negative; depending on the result that you want.
Rob McCollum: We have found that the things that are most memorable and most evocative for people are laughter; so, true comedy, but also the schadenfreude side of that; the pain, seeing somebody else's discomfort, seeing someone else's pain, seeing someone else's fear and triggering your own fear. Those are much more powerful emotions but, also, very difficult to get into a corporate, safe environment, when you're trying to tell corporate messages. You don't want to be all doom and gloom and everything is terrible and here are all the threats out there; especially in the security space. It's a dangerous trap to get into the stories of the bogey men that are out to get you; because, you can glaze over to that.
Stephanie Paul: When we're storytelling, sometimes we have to go down a negative trail, in order to get people to buy into that part of the story. I think, if the intention is positive and you have to work through the murky waters of something negative, but the outcome, or the result is ultimately positive, you'd need to hang onto that and know that the negative component of the storytelling that you're telling, has good intentions behind it. It's not fully to manipulate into a negative space and have a negative result. Especially in the securities area. Your intentions are good.
Perry Carpenter: But it's not about evoking all of these emotions and then just letting people sit in their dread. It's about finding ways to give them a way out; to show them the light at the end of the tunnel. The saving thing that is going to come and help bring resolution to all of this tension.
Perry Carpenter: Listen to how Rob McCollum and Joe Lazauskas talk about relieving that tension.
Rob McCollum: Negative emotions seem to hit harder than the positive. In a discussion where everything is wonderful and happy, there is no dramatic tension. It's about setting up the tension and then relieving it. So what we've always tried to say is, like, yes you can set the danger, yes you can set the threat levels, or whatever you want talk about; you can put the person in some kind of peril, whether it is just being embarrassed that the person in the cubicle next to you overhears something, or that your boss is going to look at you askance, or some kind of peril, but you also want to relieve that tension.
Joe Lazauskas: Talk about what isn't going well; like, where's there friction, where there's threat. But, don't just talk about it in abstract sense. Introduce real characters into the story, who are trying to fight and overcome this challenge. It can be you in the first person, a thought leadership post; it can be about a customer that you helped, whatever it might be. Introduce that conflict, that challenge that they had overcome and then talk about how they overcame it; or, how you as a company, how you're working to overcome that challenge. Then show the brighter future that comes after it. So you definitely can use, like, that conflict, that tension; things aren't perfect, there's still a lot of mistakes people are making. But then, if you end with an aspirational, positive message, that works super well.
Perry Carpenter: It's also important to realize that, one of the most untapped emotions that we can play with, or that we should play with, is the emotion of curiosity. Curiosity is like an itch that needs to be scratched. Our minds are constantly trying to fit together pieces and build context. Social engineers understand this. They use curiosity so often when they craft phishing attacks, just peak enough curiosity, or enough interest to get us to click the link, or download the attachment; because we wonder what's on the other side. Screenwriters also know about this; there's the saying that screenwriters have, that you should always start a scene late and leave early. Because, that keeps the mind engaged, wondering what's going on and looking for the payoff.
Stephanie Paul: When a good storyteller shows up, they begin to tell their story and they grab your attention first.
Perry Carpenter: Executive Storyteller, Stephanie Paul.
Stephanie Paul: You want to start with some form of a hook; some form of a, hey, wake up and listen type thing. It can be positive, it can be negative; but, it's got to be something that makes the audience wake up and listen and become connected to, oh, what's going to happen next. Once upon a time is not a great place to start. Usually, from the film industry, or TV, or those types of professional storytelling platforms, you start somewhere in the middle, or maybe even at the end.
Joe Lazauskas: Let me give you an example; which is, Cadbury's gorilla.
Joe Lazauskas: It was voted the UK's favorite ad of the last 60 years. It was made in 2007. But this ad almost didn't get made. That's because when the Marketing Director at Cadbury showed the ad to the higher ups, they were like, what the hell is this? You can see why, if you watch the ad. It essentially starts with a gorilla at a drum set, like, getting really into it, as Phil Collins, In the Air Tonight, starts to play. Then it's just 90 seconds of this gorilla, like, really emotionally playing this drum solo. You're like, what the heck is going on here?
Joe Lazauskas: At the moment where you figure it out, or you piece the story together, as a viewer, is at the end where the screen pops up, you see the bar of Cadbury chocolate. Says a glass and a half full of joy and you're like, oh this is an advert for Cadbury, this is about the joy in life. Right? That ad worked, well to a ten percent increase in sales for the rest of the year for Cadbury. It's essentially because they capitalize on our brain's instinct to want to piece together a story.
Joe Lazauskas: We're storytelling animals, as human beings, and so our instinct is always to figure out what is the story here. Even when we see this character introduced to us, this gorilla playing drums, and he's emotional, he's into it, our brain is going, okay, what's the story? Who's this gorilla? Why is he playing Phil Collins? The moment when we finally get it, is when we see the Cadbury brand name, the chocolate, the tag-line at the end of the ad.
Joe Lazauskas: That's a moment when our brains are putting together long term memory encoding. As a result, the next time you're at the store, you're checking out, you see through the corner of your eye that Cadbury chocolate bar over there, that's talking to you a little bit, you have this subconscious memory of Cadbury. You have this positive association with this really fun ad that you watched, that was super delightful and, so, you're much more likely to pick up the chocolate as you're going to check out and, thus, Cadbury, you know, turned around what had been a pretty poor year to date. Even eight years later, people remember that ad; they voted it their favorite of the last 60 years.
Rob McCollum: Every time, when we will start breaking a story; which is what we call just the story-writing process...
Perry Carpenter: Rob McCollum.
Rob McCollum: ...I will write out the bullet point kind of version of the entire story of what's happened, you know, the beginning, middle and end and then, invariably, we'll say, okay, where can we start it now? We might start it at the very end and then tell it to be a flashback. We may start it in the middle. But you almost never find us starting it at the beginning. Like, something's already happened, someone's already in the process. Someone is pinned down under a table with gunfire and then we find out who they are and why they're there. Starting with the action already happening is always a strong choice.
Perry Carpenter: So, we've talked about the Trojan horse of emotion and how that works with the Trojan horse of story and, now, let's shift gears and introduce another horse; visuals. Think about it like this. Our minds are wired for story, they are fueled by emotion; but the language of the mind is visuals and it's amazing. Even in a format like this, where all we have is audio. We can paint pictures within someone's mind and all I have to use is the magic word, imagine.
Perry Carpenter: Imagine yourself in your house, as you were growing up. Imagine the walls in front of you. Imagine the smell of the grass outside. Imagine a tree. All of those things conjure pictures within our minds and our minds recall them in ways that are wrapped with emotion and recall so many vivid memories from our past, or other experiences from our past, that would be so hard to replicate, even with the power of video, or with a real photograph. More powerful than a visual that we show on a screen, or on a page.
Stephanie Paul: It's very important that, whatever visuals you're trying to create, are very clear and concise, not only in your head, in your language, but also in your emotions. If you can see, in your mind's eye, what it is that you're sharing as you're sharing it, the audience will pick up that a lot faster, through that sort of mirror neuron thing and they'll see their own version of it. They're not going to see exactly what you see. But, if you're really immersed in that visual yourself, whether you're showing it, or telling it, they're more likely to engage faster and quicker. If you're just reading lines in your head, because it's what you've rehearsed, they're not going to connect to it and neither are you.
Rob McCollum: If you describe what something looks like and they build their own mental picture, they're going to have more connections to that. You don't know how detailed their image is; but, the images they're building, sometimes through your visual description, can be more powerful than images that you provide for them.
Rob McCollum: I've found, with audio books, when they're books that are both novels and movies, I invariably preferred the pictures in my head, from reading the book, or listening to the audio book, than the pictures that were on the screen. Maybe with the exception of the first Harry Potter movie; which got it more right than any other movie maybe ever, in my mind. But, most of the time, what I had in my head is so much more powerful, a visual connection, when you're reading something, or you're listening to something. But, again, you have to describe that picture, you have to put them in the mindset of it and using that evocative language is one of the ways.
Rob McCollum: Again, if you think about it in terms of the Trojan horses, like, I'm specifically going to make the effort to put some visual cues to guide this viewer; even if it's talking about the sterile bland beige walls of the cubical forum that I sit in. Like, people know what that means and they think about that and they understand that environment. The slight vertigo from the three acres of matching gray carpet, that you get when you walk into some of these office spaces.
Rob McCollum: Then supplying some visuals; like, a still image of one character that you can find off stock footage, but if you go, like, "I'm going to tell the story of Gary and here's a picture of Gary." You can choose a visual that's really going to cement that in people's minds. Almost as a puppet that then you're going to narrate and activate with your story, but a still image that accompanies your podcast, or whatever it is you're putting together can be helpful.
Perry Carpenter: Rob's comment about stock imaginary actually bears a little thought for a second. I want to talk about, maybe if you were trying to put visuals on a page, or on a screen, and you don't feel like you're qualified. Well, one of the things to do, is think about the emotion that you're trying to convey and then start to look at some of the stock imagery sites. A lot of those actually let you filter by emotion.
Perry Carpenter: Or, if you're trying to think, what is a peaceful family scene? Well, all you have to do is Google photos of family and see what comes up. Often you'll see things like, this family walking together through a field of yellow grass, that's kind of, you know, waist high, or something like that, and families don't really do that, that often, but what's being conveyed is the sense of family; so they'll show all of them together and then that kind of yellowish/orange, psychologically for a lot of us, conveys thoughts of peace and tranquility. And so that's what's being shown, and so all you have to do is look for other examples and you'll see that most of the work has been done for you.
Perry Carpenter: Now let's return to the thought of how we conjure pictures within our minds. I remember an old school hypnotist that I saw in a film reel one day and he was trying to show the power of our mind to cement images that we simply conjure out of thin air. What he wanted to show was the fact that, we can have visceral bodily reactions to the pictures in our minds and he said, "so close your eyes and I want you to imagine a lemon. Think of its yellow skin and the bumpy texture of it and imagine a knife next to it. Now I want you to imagine picking up the knife and slicing open the lemon, and the juice coming out, and imagine squeezing it a little bit and just watching the juice trickle out of the lemon. Now imagine bringing the lemon up to your mouth and tasting it. Imagine how sour it is; imagine that sensation in your mouth, as the sourness comes in." You get the idea.
Perry Carpenter: If you're listening to this now and you participated in that, you probably experienced some sensations. You probably felt a physical reaction, like saliva gathering in your mouth, and that's because our minds are powerful when it comes to visuals and when it comes to memory and sensation. If we've had that experience before, we can imagine it and we can recall that in a very full and in a very visceral way. Whether that be positive, or negative. And so we can bring all of that into our storytelling, the power of visuals.
Perry Carpenter: Let's now turn our attention to the Trojan horse of sound.
Rob McCollum: It's amazing to me how powerful the record scratch still is. We haven't used records in 20 years. I don't even know that my kids know what a record was for a long time; although, now it's retro cool to have albums. But they knew what a record scratch was; because it was so much in the story that, any time something totally stopped down and went wrong, you heard that scratching sound and everything came to a halt. It had no connection to a record scratch for them, but they knew what it meant in terms of storytelling.
Perry Carpenter: Sound is one of those things that often goes, well, unseen, but I guess I should say, undetected. It accompanies so much of storytelling. We hear sound beds within TV shows and movies and audio books and everything else and we don't even give it a second thought; it's just there. It's accompanying the dialog, it's supporting the mood, it's creating tension.
Perry Carpenter: But, the problem is, that we don't think about that often, whenever we're designing our communication campaigns. We put up a stodgy talking head in a suit, talking about the security issue of the day, or the policy change and we treat sound as something that's forgotten, or as an afterthought. But, when you look at things like kids' shows and things like multi-million dollar productions, sound design isn't an afterthought, it is a parallel journey. It is treated as an essential part of the narrative process.
Perry Carpenter: In things like kids' shows, when there's a critical idea, it is emphasized with some type of sound cue; to say, oh, you're going to need to remember this for later. In movies, there is frequently some type of interesting sound cue; whether that's musical, or whether that's the strike of a percussion instrument, or whether that's a scream from another room. Something is going on to say, this is important, you should pay attention to this. The main character is now in danger, or something is about to happen, that is going to ratchet up the tension, or something's going to happen that is going to relieve the tension.
Rob McCollum: I completely agree, I think it's often the afterthought at the end of the video. Like, we've recorded the video, we've edited it and now we just need to throw a music bed underneath it. It's not intentional, it's not thought about, it's not part of the storytelling process. It's part of the production process and what we always try to say is that, every portion of your production should be a narrative process.
Stephanie Paul: Let's think theatrical here, it could be something like a really dark sound; like thunder and lightning all of a sudden clapping together. That would most certainly make an audience go, oh, hey! Just think of some of those horror movies that start off, they start with a very weird sound and suddenly you're like, oh God, what's going to happen next?
Rob McCollum: Back in the early days of bulk mail advertising, there was a huge amount of research done and people that made their whole business on teaching you how to write a newsletter, that it needed to have this kind of font at the top and this later and then this written in red and then this, appearingly, hand-scribbled on the side; like, last chance for this author. A lot of science went into highlighting different pieces of a document, to get people's attention.
Rob McCollum: I think it's important, when you think of storytelling is, those are additional highlighting tools. How can I underline something? I can underline it with sound design, I can underline it with the emotion that I'm telling in that story and the words that I choose. But they're always to highlight, or underline certain pieces of content as you go out. I think people don't think about all of the different tools in their toolbox; all the different highlighters that they have available to them, when they're working with sound, or different video projects.
Perry Carpenter: Let's think for just a minute about Rob's comments, when it comes to highlighting and underlining all the different ways that we can emphasize written words on a page. Now, hopefully, you've been hearing some of that, audibly, as we've been going throughout this podcast and you can always listen again and take those examples with you. But, what about when there is no music and there is no sound designer, no post-production? You don't have a Foley artist stashed in a closet somewhere near you and it's just you and your audience and the sound of your voice? What options do you have and how do you maximize that?
Perry Carpenter: It's important to realize that, when there's just words written on a page, everything is up for interpretation. All of the words have equal weight when they're on the page, unless there's something stylistic going on, like italics, or bold, or underlining, or changing your font style, or setting a sentence apart by itself, or something like that. Every word itself just carries equal weight and that's what's happening in our newsletters and our policies and everything else. People are bringing the interpretation with them. Now, let me give you an example. This is a simple seven word sentence. But, depending on how you emphasize each word, the sentence meaning changes drastically.
Perry Carpenter: The sentence is, I never said she stole my money. Now, on the page, each of those words has the same weight. I never said she stole my money. Now, if I emphasize I you get, I never said she stole my money; implying, maybe, that somebody else said that. Or, I never said she stole my money. Well, maybe I just implied that she stole my money. I never said she stole my money. Well, now your money's gone, but you never implied her. I never said she stole my money. Maybe you implied somebody else. I never said she stole my money. Well, maybe she didn't steal your money, but maybe she stole your heart.
Perry Carpenter: You get the idea. The words on a page are up for interpretation. What are you doing? What am I doing to convey the meaning that we intend, as we put those words on a page? Because, that's up to us. We need to minimize chances for misinterpretation.
Perry Carpenter: Before we leave this Trojan horse of sound, let's look at one more thing and that's what's called the audio logo. These are interesting, because they have the parallel that we're very used to in the visual field; which is, brand logos like the Bell for Taco Bell, or the F for Facebook and so on. In my book, I talk about the power of visual branding quite a bit; because, when we see that logo, we remember all of our history with that brand and we unlock all of that emotion and so on. Images are a compression algorithm for the mind. The same thing exists within the audio realm.
Perry Carpenter: The audio logo is one of those things that organizations spend a lot of time and money, trying to figure out what's right for themselves. When you hear what is essentially a C chord and an inversion for the NBC logo, realize that that is powerful for them. You hear those notes and it unlocks all the brand association within your mind.
Perry Carpenter: Or you hear the low thrum of the Netflix audio logo and you settle in for a night of binge watching. Or you hear the bell ringing from the Taco Bell audio logo and you get hungry and, then, speaking of hunger, you hear the... from the McDonald's audio logo and, in your mind, or out loud, or at some point, you are thinking, or singing I'm loving it.
Perry Carpenter: That's the kind of power that comes with the intentional use of sound and, so, sound is something that we cannot forget to pay attention to. If we leave it on the table, we leave power out of our message.
Perry Carpenter: Now we come to our last Trojan horse, this is the Trojan horse of words and story and, in so many ways, this horse has been with us throughout the entire podcast. If you remember, this is what I call the uber horse; this is the one that you compare with any, or all of the others. You see it paired with emotion, where you have story that is injecting emotion, or reflecting emotion. You have words that evoke certain emotion. You see it paired with the visuals, where you have story that is supported by visuals, or words that paint pictures within our minds. You see this horse paired with sound. We have the sound of the way that we use our words and we have the sound that emphasizes, or helps us tell the story as part of the narrative process. Remember this, our minds are wired for story.
Perry Carpenter: If we ever want to have success in conveying meaning with our words, we will always up our chance if we wrap our message in story. Without story, you just have empty words. Without story, you have sounds without meaning, without story; you have emotions that are untapped, uncontrolled, or unbridled. This is the horse that you've been looking for. As we talk about this last horse, let's start with an exploration of words, how we select words and the fact that words have power.
Stephanie Paul: The words you use can most definitely support the emotional delivery. If you use a word like, oh that's tasty, versus a word like, that's delicious, and then you could say, oh that's tasty. Now, that's delicious. See, the word delicious is even better than tasty.
Rob McCollum: This is the first sentence they're hearing. What are ways that I can make that more interesting? What are ways that I can make that stick in people's minds? Is there an illiterative thing that can be done there?
Perry Carpenter: The way that we structure language is always important; but there are a couple of gotchas here. In things like the use of alliteration, or puns, or extremely poetic language, it's really, really important to understand that, some bits of communication are language dependent and sometimes we can lose meaning and lose connection with our audience, if we make the structure of our content overly dependent on the structure of the language. Even things like humor have a hard time moving around the globe and carrying the same weight and getting the same type of connection. So, my number one recommendation is to know your audience and then craft your language in such a way as to forge the best connection possible.
Perry Carpenter: Okay, let's go back to Rob McCollum.
Rob McCollum: Are there emotional words, are there visual cues, are there sound cues that, in the words that I choose and how they sound, that will tell me who this person is and what they're trying to achieve.
Stephanie Paul: Choosing emotional words can help. You don't want too many of them; because, then it sounds like you've just wrote some kind of poetry and it's a little bit ostentatious and out of control. But, using more interesting, emotional words and terminology can, effectively, really help push the story along.
Rob McCollum: As bad as I am at talking quickly and talking way too fast, slowing down and taking your time at the right moment is really important. Like, this is the big message, so I'm slowing down, I'm dropping my tone, I'm getting in a little closer to the microphone and I'm saying, that this is the thing you need to remember. Like, that's a cue.
Perry Carpenter: So the words that we choose matter, the intentionality matters and how we structure the language matters. As you can imagine, our guests also had quite a few thoughts about storytelling. Here's Stephanie Paul.
Stephanie Paul: We've all been at a wedding, or a funeral, or a very important gathering where somebody's got up and they're, "does anybody else want to speak?" And they're like, "well, I didn't prepare anything, but I just want to say a few words," and they get up and they take us on this roller-coaster journey, where we laugh, we cry and we're like, oh my God, that was amazing, I can't believe you didn't write it. That's because the core component was there; it's the authenticity, the sincerity of the transparency and those are the things that we connect to.
Joe Lazauskas: I mean, I think for most of us it's a natural part of all of our lives. We all are born with these storytelling superpowers.
Perry Carpenter: Joe Lazauskas.
Joe Lazauskas: You know, we grow up as kids in a world of play and imagination, in our own Neverland and we tend to lose that a little bit when we become adults. But, at the heart, you know, we're constantly telling stories.
Stephanie Paul: There's some research that I came across early in my diving down into the science side of things, around brain development. Children from a very young age, about the age of two, start telling lies and, the more plausible the lie, the faster their brain is developing and the more likely they are to be a successful adult. Because, their brain develops very quickly and expansively and they can oversee things better. Part of that is telling lies when we're kids.
Stephanie Paul: At some point, we get told, or we hear, stop telling stories, stop telling stories, because it's associated with lies. I think, as we get up and go through school, there's this thing where it's, you must be serious and you can't tell stories; because, it's not facts and it's not figures and it's not data and it's not serious stuff. I think we're forced away from story and humor and play and fun because we now have to be serious adults. The unfortunate thing about that is, play and humor and stories are things that our brain naturally latches onto. Our brain will go there and believe that, or want to be with that emotionally and connect to that and bond to that, much more than data and science and all that kind of stuff.
Joe Lazauskas: We have tried to get some frameworks to help people with this; one is a simple four elements approach. What we've seen in research really correlates to stories that captivate people and engage them. The first is relatability. Start off your story by forging that connection with someone else; by presenting a character that they can relate to. Whether that's someone in the third person, or that's a view of yourself; like, making yourself relatable to your audience.
Stephanie Paul: I've got clients who spend hours and hours painstakingly going over their slide deck and their material and their content and I'm like, at the end of the day, that's materialistic. It's fluff, it's jewelry; you put it on and it's nice and it's pretty, but your audience is going to buy into you.
Rob McCollum: Choose a character, if you have the opportunity to put it in the voice of that character, it's always going to be more interesting.
Joe Lazauskas: The next is novelty; so, introducing something new. Like, don't tell them a story they've heard over and over before, because that's just not very interesting to people. But something new, or surprising that they haven't encountered in the past.
Stephanie Paul: You want to start with some form of a hook; some form of a, hey, wake up and listen type thing.
Joe Lazauskas: The third is fluency, which is this idea of just breaking down the barrier between you and your audience as much as possible.
Rob McCollum: Acknowledgment that there are human beings receiving this and that it's not just files out and files in, that there's actual humans with emotions, thoughts and ideas receiving this information; so, maybe the content you send should also have emotions and thoughts and ideas.
Joe Lazauskas: Then, finally, it's tension. Tension, a conflict gap between what is and what could be is at the heart of what a story is.
Rob McCollum: It's, you know, the kind of fighting the cat story structure; like, first there's a cat, something terrible happens to the cat, the cat is gone, where's the cat? You find the cat. It's about setting up the tension and then relieving it.
Perry Carpenter: I should mention here that Rob is referring to a storytelling structure developed by Blake Snyder and it's called Save the Cat; the Language of Storytelling.
Stephanie Paul: The most important story that you will ever tell in your life is the story between your two ears; it's the story that you tell yourself. Because, if you can't convince yourself of something, you are certainly not going to convince your audience of anything.
Perry Carpenter: What is our experts' last piece of advice? It's simply this.
Rob McCollum: Yes, shorter is always better; because, in this world, people are very cognizant of their time and, if you can show them respect for the use of their time and the time that they're spending with you, they're always going to appreciate it.
Perry Carpenter: With that piece of advice, we'll go ahead and bring today's episode to a close. I hope you've enjoyed getting acquainted with these four Trojan horses for the mind and that you find interesting ways to use them, to better connect with everyone around you.
Perry Carpenter: A special thank you to our guests for joining us today. If you'd like to learn more about Rob, or Joe, or Stephanie, please check out our show notes and we'll have all of that information available for you.
Perry Carpenter: If you'd like to take a deeper dive into the Trojan horses for the mind, you can find that in my book, Transformational Security Awareness, What Neuroscientists, Storytellers And Marketers Can Teach Us About Driving Secure Behaviors.
Perry Carpenter: Thanks for listening to 8th Layer Insights. If you liked today's show, we'd be really grateful if you rate and leave us a review on Apple Podcast. Doing so helps appease the algorithm gods and, also, helps other people find our show. You can subscribe for free on Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you like to get your podcast fix. Until next time, I'm Perry Carpenter signing off.
Perry Carpenter: 8th Layer Insights is a proud member of the CyberWire network.