This season of Margins is sponsored by Showcase Workshop, which helps you deliver outstanding marketing and sales content screen-to-screen, face-to-face, or wherever the sale takes you. Margins listeners get an extended 30-day free trial and your first month free when you become a customer. You’re welcome.
Who were my heroes when I was growing up? Indiana Jones and Han Solo. Hey, Harrison Ford has a lot of swagger, and supposedly, he’s also a Jackson Hole resident. Can you blame me?
Now, both of those characters are iconic roles in film. But one thing I had never considered was that for many, these movies would have felt exclusionary. No offense to Short Round, but you’re a little complicated. And the original Star Wars films were so white and male that some Internet nerds freaked out that the cast of the sequel trilogy dared to resemble the franchise’s diverse, global fanbase.
With the death of Chadwick Boseman, I’ve been thinking a lot about our relationship with our big-screen heroes. About how much his performance in Black Panther meant to Black people, particularly Black boys, who had been denied the pleasure of seeing a superhero who looked like them for so long. I can understand what inspired them to jump up and dance when they found out they were going to see Black Panther. And I can understand what inspires them to hold funerals for Black Panther now in the wake of Boseman’s death.
Ryan Coogler is one of my generation’s great filmmakers, and he, Chadwick, and the rest of their collaborators clearly understood the power they were wielding. And I’d be remiss if I did not mention how Ryan has been using his influence for gender equality behind the camera as well.
But that’s the power of story. It shapes the way we see the world — and ourselves.
Add us to your podcast feed and listen in!
Whose Story Are You Telling?
Kelsey Raymond is cofounder and CEO of Influence and Co, a content marketing agency based in Columbia, Missouri. Like many of us in content marketing, she’s had to grapple with the challenges of telling her clients’ stories while also balancing the long-overdue renewed attention on racial inequities in the United States.
It’s a challenge exacerbated by the simple fact that most of Kelsey’s team is white. But to create relevant stories that truly reflect our nation’s demographics, Kelsey’s team hasn’t stood still. Instead, they’ve worked to confront their own biases through honest discussions and reading. “We need to really be able to understand the experiences of others,” Kelsey explains.
Kelsey and her team have shared anti-racist books and resources with each other, but they’re also taking action with their clients — by working to identify and cultivate thought leaders and subject matter experts outside the usual realm of “older white men.” Sometimes this is a matter of explicitly asking for more diverse voices, and other times it’s simply a matter of finding people in different roles in an organization. “We’ve seen that creates better content as well,” says Kelsey.
“The content has to come from personal experience.”
How to Find Heart
Xero Skidmore is a slam poet, musician and the executive director of Forward Arts. He collaborated with Tommy Talley, chief storyteller at Echo Tango and Bullpen Creative, on an advertisement for Adidas titled “Heart” that featured baseball pitcher Marcus Stroman. The advertisement recently won an American Advertising Award, and the two joined the podcast to discuss their collaboration.
One of the biggest challenges in narrative storytelling is channeling someone else’s mind. For Tommy and Xero, their job was simple: Tell the story of Marcus Stroman. Originally, the two thought they would be creating an ad about Marcus being traded to the Yankees. When that trade fell through — and Marcus was traded to the Mets instead — the two set about trying to figure out a new angle.
The two landed on Marcus’s personality itself. Marcus is 5’8”, the shortest pitcher in Major League Baseball. He carries himself with an edge, and for good reason — as Tommy points out during the episode, sometimes Marcus is facing batters who are still taller than Marcus stands on a pitching mound. “I want to say there’s not even another starter in Major League Baseball that’s under six feet,” Tommy notes.
Xero is not a baseball fan, but he found commonalities between his own life and Marcus’s. To get into Marcus’s mind for the poem, Xero imagined a moment in his life similar to taking the mound: competing in poetry slam competitions. It turns out baseball and poetry aren’t that different. There’s quite a bit of pressure, and numerous people are watching you attempt to perform at the highest level. “To step out onto a platform or a pitcher’s mound and be watched by millions of people at a time, with thousands of people in the stance — that requires a huge amount of confidence,” Xero says. “ “You’ve gotta tell yourself that you’re Superman or Superwoman.”
People Featured in This Episode
SPONSOR READ: This season of Margins from Managing Editor is brought to you by Showcase Workshop, which helps your team deliver outstanding sales presentations wherever you go. Marketers, you’ll be able to see how your content performs in real time, so you can deliver more of what works. Learn more at showcaseworkshop.com/Margins.
MARY ELLEN SLAYTER: From Managing Editor Magazine, this is Margins. If you have “content” in your job description, or you’re just interested in how we all talk to each other online, we made this podcast for you. And this season on Margins, we’re exploring the idea of influence: who has it, who wants it, and how we wield it at work and in our communities. I’m your host, Mary Ellen Slayter.
ELENA VALENTINE: And I’m your co-host Elena Valentine.
The Big Idea
ELENA VALENTINE: Mary Ellen, why did you theme this episode as narrative influence?
MARY ELLEN SLAYTER: Well, I think for me it is because it has become a truism in marketing, the customer’s the hero. Make the customer the hero of your story, buyer’s journey. We say buyer’s journey like it’s hero’s journey. It’s like poor Joseph Campbell. I feel like he would be so disturbed by the way that what business did with that structure. But again, it’s like, what do you mean by that? People say that and that’s what I wanted to ask. So when we went, I talked to several of our guests who are really good storytellers and I asked them what that meant to them. And I’m curious, when we talk about storytelling to you, you make films, you use video and film to tell stories. How do you use story to influence people?
ELENA VALENTINE: I will always stand by this quote, by Patty Dean, “The shortest distance between two people is a story.” And we’re thinking about increasing connections between employees or between potential candidates. And if our companies are made up of people, then there’s a myriad of stories that we should be able to tell to be able to more inherently connect to the heart of that candidate or of that employee. So let me provide a perfect example because this was basically my last job as a design r esearcher. I basically was working for the Fortune 500 as an eviction consultant, primarily being the voice of the consumer. They would come to us with hundreds of research whatever, to say, “82% of women in this particular community that have children under the age of five shop at Target. Help us understand then how we continue to take these women into the future with our store.” Like that. They basically brought us with a bunch of research. What they didn’t understand was who was the human? Who was this 32 year old mother of two, who shopped at Target? And it wasn’t even just about persona building. It literally was, we were now set out to go across the U.S. and in many ways, going across the world to understand who these buyers and consumers were. We’d go into their homes. We would shop with them. We might get our nails done together if this was about nail care. We might get our feet done if this was about foot care, which was an extremely interesting project. To really understand, for example, what does foot care mean to a Brazilian woman versus what it might mean to a Russian woman or Chinese? And then you start to think about the stories and kind of the cultural perspectives of things like acupuncture in China, or beauty in Brazil, and fashion in all women wearing five-inch heels and what that meant to their perspectives and the stories of foot care. And the stories inevitably that these large brands would have to tell and help their consumers understand if they were going to be successful in each of these markets. And inevitably we would change, I think the perspectives of C-suite, despite the fact that they had all this data in front of them to say, here are the stories of 12 women from Brazil. This is their story of what foot care means to them and how they care for their feet. And it moved them. And it would legit get them to now say, “Okay, we now are going to make this multimillion-dollar investment to do X and market it now in this way. “So there’s an art and a science to it, but what I kept finding, time and time again, and I think it’s why I’ve chosen the career that I have is that there’s the quant, the quant of the logic and the brain, but it’s the heart that moves people. Even C-suites have hearts.
Interview 1: Kelsey Raymond
MARY ELLEN SLAYTER: Kelsey Raymond is the co founder and CEO of Influence and Company, a content marketing firm based in Columbia, Missouri. And when it comes to telling stories for her clients, there’s one question she always asks.
KELSEY RAYMOND: Why the heck should people care? And so a lot of times getting them to care is getting them to relate to something on a human level. And people really relate to stories. They can see themselves in stories. So most of the content that we’re creating with clients, you’ll notice the introductory few paragraphs is telling a story because you’re setting the stage for why this argument makes sense. And it also really allows you to be more authentic. We’ve seen sometimes the clients want to push too hard on promoting their products or services, and we really have to educate them that that’s not the point of content marketing. This is not just an advertisement. You are wanting to build trust and engage over time. And in order to do that, if you can kind of open up and tell a story about your personal experience, you’re going to do that so much better. And so I think that the storytelling and the individual pieces of content really helps with the authenticity and engaging people early on. And it also helps with being able to take a really complex topic and help people see themselves in it and relate to it.
MARY ELLEN SLAYTER: So walk me through an example of that, if you can think, whether it’s for your own brand and how you’ve developed that, or what you’ve done for a client that you’ve been really proud of.
KELSEY RAYMOND: Yeah. One recent article that we were really proud of was for a client who works with M&C Saatchi, and she was writing an article on inclusivity in the workplace. That is a broad topic. And that is also a topic that, it means something to her personally. So instead of just writing this article, that was very fact-driven of here are the issues and here’s how to solve them. She started the article telling a story of when she was pitching a client and she’s an Asian American woman. And someone said to her, “You don’t look like a creative director.” And how taken aback she was by that and how that affected her and what that means for what people think people in certain roles are supposed to look like. That story was really powerful and it was really personal to her. So that set the stage for that article to say, she’s not just saying, “Hey, these issues happen.” She’s saying, “This happened to me personally. And this is why I have the experience to now suggest different ways of handling things.” So I think that when you have a personal experience with something and you can tell your story, it’s going to make the content so much stronger.
MARY ELLEN SLAYTER: The act of storytelling itself is an act of curation and recent events have forced all of us to take a hard look at whose story we are actually telling.
KELSEY RAYMOND: Something that we’ve talked about a lot internally at the company this last couple of weeks, our team is about 90% white and that’s something that I don’t like. I want to have a more diverse team. And it’s something that I think we need to look in at ourselves and say, “Why is that? Why is our team not as reflective of the communities that we’re in?” And that is something that we need to work harder at and we need to figure out what are we doing in our hiring process, or what are we doing that is not making us as diverse of a team as we would like to be. But because of that, when we’ve talked about all of the protests, which I personally, and our team as a whole, very much support the protests and the black lives matter movement. But we’ve also said, with our team being so white, what is our place in this? We’ve really talked about that, our place is to educate ourselves because to examine our own personal narrative and our experiences, we need to really be able to better understand the experiences of others. And so if we’re only trying to think about how we’re viewing this from our experiences and we are not a minority, then we’re not really understanding the full narrative of what’s going on. So we’ve shared with our team, tons of resources on being anti-racist and we’re having a book club with the team of reading, I can’t remember if we landed on White Fragility or So You Want to Talk About Race, but we’re choosing a book as a team and reading this and discussing it because we know that we can learn from other people’s stories and other narratives. And it’s something that I think, honestly, we’re late to the game and we should’ve been doing this long ago.
MARY ELLEN SLAYTER: It’s interesting. You didn’t just give them a set of facts. Those are both very story-based books.
KELSEY RAYMOND: I am excited that we’re having these conversations as a team right now. And I think that it’s something that I’m proud of our team. We have some people on our team that are asking really tough questions. One person emailed me and said, “Hey, not only is our team super white, but the clients that we represent are.” So what can we be doing as a company to help amplify black voices? And what can we be doing to challenge our clients when every single time we’re working with them and they say, “Oh, here’s the two subject matter experts on our team you’re going to work with.” And they’re older white men. Can we say, “Is there anyone else on your team who might have an interesting perspective on this?” And so that’s something also that not just looking at us internally, but how are we then challenging our clients as well to amplify different voices.
MARY ELLEN SLAYTER: We do that as well. And we get different levels of receptiveness, like where some people think that we’re trying to say that those other people aren’t smart or that other people are valuable. And it’s like, well, we just want some new perspectives, but then I’ve got other clients who are like, “Holy shit, you’re right. Let’s go see what we can pull up.” And it forces them… What I like about it too, because I think of like the salt leadership content, I see it as a staff development tool in a way. Subject matter experts don’t just happen. Those guys, those men got that way because they kept getting tapped and pulled up and put out in front. So if you start right now, you make them. You don’t find them. Give them the opportunity. Put them out there. Think about your selection process. It can’t just be people who raise their hand and say, “Put me in.” Because some of your smartest people, they’re going to be full of self-doubt. They’re going to be like, no, you got to go get them, train them, cultivate them, and then lift up their perspective.
KELSEY RAYMOND: And we’ve had great experiences with that when we’ve had, even a client that sends answers back on some topic and we can say, “Okay, there’s something here, but can we actually talk to your head of HR? Because you talked about this thing that you guys are doing from an HR perspective. And we think that they would have something to say here.” So even trying to get just people in different roles in the organization, we’ve seen creates better content as well.
MARY ELLEN SLAYTER: And finally, Kelsey left us with a reminder about where the best stories come from, your experiences.
KELSEY RAYMOND: We’ll tell clients, the content has to come from a personal experience. Otherwise, why are you the one that should be saying this? When we pitch these to publication editors, they always want to know like, “Why is this person an expert in this?” Well, sure, maybe you went to school for a bunch of years and you have these degrees, but if you have a lived experience in it, and you’re sharing this from things that you know because you experienced them, that is a much stronger argument for why you should be writing this content.
MARY ELLEN SLAYTER: But how do you get people to connect with those? Like thinking about when you’re giving advice to people and they’re coming in and they want to say, “Well, here are the facts. Here’s this, I want to give these numbers.” Like case studies or one of my favorite examples of this. It’s like, you can give me a case study or you can give me a case story. How do you tease that out of people?
KELSEY RAYMOND: There’s people on our team who are way better at this than I am, because I’m not interacting with clients in this capacity all the time, but I like to kind of think to some of the great advice I’ve heard from the editors and the content strategists on our team is, they try to ask questions to get to some of the pain points or the things that our clients are experiencing. And they try to ask them in ways that would spark a story. So instead of just, “What are three examples of this?” It’s, “When was the last time you experienced this? Tell me about a recent experience that illustrates this point.” So instead of just kind of asking for examples, they’re trying to get them to think of really specific instances, because then they can start to tease out there’s a story there more. A lot of times we’re also trying to understand what questions our clients are getting from their customers. Because a lot of times, those questions are touching on things that the clients are experts at. So if we can understand what questions they’re already answering on a regular basis, we know that there’s stories behind those.
SPONSOR READ: Hi there, Internet. I’m from New Zealand. When we’re not being really good at sports no one else plays, we’re making software that gives complete visibility of how your marketing material is being used. Check out showcaseworkshop.com/margins. Made by New Zealand. Well, not all of us.
Interview 2: Xero Skidmore and Tommy Talley
MARY ELLEN SLAYTER: Our final guests are commercial director Tommy Talley and Xero Skidmore, a slam poet and musician. The two collaborated on a piece for Adidas entitled Heart, which featured baseball pitcher, Marcus Stroman. The ad recently won an American Advertising award, and Tommy and Xero join me to discuss the way that project came together. But before we get to that, let’s listen to Xero’s raw recording of the poem he wrote for the ad. You could find the final piece in our show notes.
XERO SKIDMORE: By all means, keep underestimating me and I’ll keep surpassing your limited comprehension of what is possible. For example, this is not a hand. It’s a time machine fueled by my grandmother’s DNA. It blurs the line between here and after. It splits split seconds and rips stitches from catchers mitts only halfway through the pitch. And this is not an arm. It’s a lasso. It throws balls and reels in dreams. It’s the force field around first base. It ends the chase before one foot can pick the pace. It leaves a trace as bitter as a no hitter must taste. This arm is an imaginative line. The shortest distance between zero points. This dance is a blizzard. I stand up and batters can’t leave home. Need to be dug out. Liquid helium in my veins. The title of marksman hit me in my name. No I in team. A, I am in aim. This heart is a castle. It has room enough for me to tower over expectations. I believe in myself like elders believe in progress. This heart can stretch the neck of Lochness, reduce the team’s dream of conquest to a hot mess. This heart beats everyone. I turn a mound into a mountain, a snowcap height with blue stripes. I’m the type to frighten batters who take swipes at streets of white light. I’m not the HDMH website. It invites hits. I’m the hype. I’m the sales pitch, the brand and the movement. I’m the original and the improvement, the master and the student, the solution and the nuisance, the every man and the superhuman. So by all means, keep underestimating me. I’m the truth right under your nose, over your head and through with your stereotypes.
TOMMY TALLEY: As far as this project goes, I’m doing work in baseball, a baseball p layer named Marcus Stroman is about to be traded to New York. We all believe it’s the Yankees, not to make this a heavy sports conversation, but he’s a Toronto pitcher and we’re like, he’s going home. He’s from the area. I call Xero. I’m sitting next to Wrigley. I’m in Chicago for 12 days on different shoots. And I call Xero and I’m like, “Hey dude, I have another stupid idea. But this guy is from here. This is his thing. Here’s his story.” You don’t have to give to Xero much. That’s one of the entire keys. If I were to take any art from the story we talk about here today is, when you surround yourself with talented people, nothing in the creative space is hard. Because people fall into what they’re good at. And the machine just moves. This project was so simple and thank goodness Xero loves what he does because Stroman did get traded to a New York team. He got traded to the Mets, even though we had written our first original poem as if he was a Yankee. So that poem had to go in the trashcan, but Xero had performed another poem that was about Stroman being small in stature and overcoming life’s obstacles, which is the piece that you see today. But that wasn’t what we asked him to do. That was him just doing another poem.
MARY ELLEN SLAYTER: Okay. So walk me through that process because I do find this fascinating because my role, I just see the end product. I see you perform. I see where people are sharing things, like videos of things where you’ve performed, where you read things. Talk me through how you even… your creative process.
XERO SKIDMORE: So after Tommy reached out to me, I did some research as much as I could, found out as much information as I could about Marcus Stroman. Connected all of that to the narrative that Tommy was trying to go with. Once I did that, I saw that there was more there. Of course, we all have our own personal narratives that we’re living. And so I continued to write and I recorded some extra content, just so Tommy had a lot of options. I think I sent something maybe in a day or two. And once he gave me feedback, I was able to continue to work on it, which is also a really big part of the way me and Tommy work is that I crave feedback. I have a very thick skin when it comes to critical feedback. And so I’m nagging him, like, “What do I need to make better?” And he’s very good at telling me what I need to go back and work on, if there’s anything we want to extrapolate or anything we want to reduce in the work. So yeah, I kind of identify with Marcus a little bit. I’m not a baseball fan. And so I did not really… Well, let me say this. I played baseball as a kid, competitive baseball as a kid. It’s the only sport I ever played competitively, but I’ve never been much of a fan of any sport. I’ve played sports, but I’m not a really good spectator. If I’m not playing, I don’t really care about it. If I can’t be the star, I’m not trying to really be in the audience a whole lot. And so I was really able to key in on the way a novice would see this commercial who may not be really, kind of a baseball nerd, but a layperson who is going to connect to Marcus as a person and not so much as an athlete.
MARY ELLEN SLAYTER: So how do you make someone like Marcus seem less like a superhero on a pitcher’s mound and more like, well, you and me?
TOMMY TALLEY: In storytelling in general, it’s not just that marketing is the bad guy. We always have to exaggerate these bright moments that make an arc come together. That’s just part of storytelling. Whether that’s the way you crescendo your voice at the right time in a st ory, or whether it’s using a bigger word than maybe you should to carry it. But the deal with Stroman and which is why I think this resonates is, it does have the homecoming story. It’s the idea that this guy is five-eight, and this guy is the shortest pitcher in major league baseball. I want to say there’s not even another starter in major league baseball that’s under six feet and five-eight is significantly shorter than five-eleven and three quarters. Just to put this in perspective, when you’re five-eight, and you stand on a pitching mound, a pitching mound is 10 inches high. S o there’s still a couple of batters in the league that when you’re standing on that mound, they’re still bigger than you. Mathematically, you’re standing on a step ladder and there are still dudes who hit 40, 50 home runs a year that you’re pitching the ball to who are still taller than you. So this guy’s story and the fire he plays with, he’s a diminutive human. He is not a big man but he plays —
MARY ELLEN SLAYTER: A true underdog then. You got me an underdog story. You got me a Napoleon story, but in a good way.
TOMMY TALLEY: Yeah. When you watch just the way the dude walks, the way the dude talks, everything about him, he’s lived little, his entire life and you can tell. And I think it’s the reason Steph Curry connects with so many young kids. Steph Curry is the truth that if you just take enough jump shots, you can play professional basketball. Is that completely true? No. But when you see him standing next to LeBron it at least looks that way. And when this guy is five-eight and he’s ringing up Aaron Judge, who’s one of the bigger physical specimen baseball players who’s a great player. That means if you like pitching and you want to pitch that this guy is who you should model and pattern yourself after. He gives everyone hope that you could do something that oftentimes when we’re little we don’t think we can, especially as it relates to athletics.
MARY ELLEN SLAYTER: What were you thinking, listening to that, Xero? When you think about pulling these stories together and how you punch up that arc and figure out what the story is, what was on your mind as he was describing that?
XERO SKIDMORE: When I approached the piece, I really thought about what does this guy tell himself as he’s getting ready to walk out onto the field? I think about those moments when I was competing in poetry slams on the national and international level and you’re getting ready to go out there and you got to pep talk yourself. You got to tell yourself that you’re Superman or Superwoman or whoever. I think that, for me, I wrote the poem as if he were speaking. And it was really about him kind of bragging on himself in a way that a person might do to themselves as they’re kind of standing in the mirror saying, you can do this, you can do this. You deserve to be here. You deserve to be here. That’s got to be crazy… I’ve kind of walked out onto a stage of maybe a couple of hundred people. And so to step out on to a platform or a pitcher’s mound and be watched by millions of people at a time, thousands of people in the stands that requires a huge amount of confidence. And we all don’t always carry that confidence with us when we’re walking out of the dressing room, the locker room. So for me, framing that piece as kind of him giving himself affirmation, I think played pretty well to all of us who find ourselves in those situations where we have to do that. Whether we’re about to go into our boss’s office and ask for a raise or pumping ourselves up to give a presentation. I think that we all have a tendency to do that even if we’re not saying it out loud. We all have a tendency to kind of give ourselves a pep talk.
MARY ELLEN SLAYTER: So what exactly does influence mean to a poet like Xero? His answer? It’s not what you would expect.
XERO SKIDMORE: When I think about influence, I think about family, I think about our culture, the ways in which we are oriented into the world, through the people around us. As an artist, a lot of my influence comes from my mom who was kind of the family storyteller. Not was, but is. She’s really really funny, over the top, loud, and I’m just like my mom in a lot of ways, especially when I think about myself as an artist. It all comes from her, her love of music, her level of storytelling, being able to deliver a good joke. And she’s much more a people person than I am. So I think in my kind of shyness growing up, I kind of reverted to my mom’s personality when it came time that when I would be forced to have to engage with people socially. And so, became a storyteller pretty early because of her.
MARY ELLEN SLAYTER: So it’s funny, both of your work, you’re both in the business often of selling really big ideas and provocative ideas, but neither of you do it by making an argument. You’re both capable of getting up and saying, one, two, three reasons why, but that’s not how I either of you talk people into things. So I’m going to start back with you, Xero, because you mentioned storytelling and your mom. So if you wanted to talk me into something, how would you do it? You’re trying to change people’s minds. What does that look like?
XERO SKIDMORE: Whenever I acted out, I remember when I would bully my younger brothers, my mom told this story about when she was bullied and how it made her feel. And I immediately felt empathy for her. She’s my mom. And then I was able to relate that feeling to my younger brothers. So I think for me, the ability to get people to connect to my humanity, to trigger an empathetic response from them, has always been a great tool. I think one of my jobs as a storyteller is to humanize people and to humanize myself.
MARY ELLEN SLAYTER: So why do you think that works? What does that do that just making an argument or making your points or bringing your data to the conversation. What do you do with storytelling that you can’t do with that?
XERO SKIDMORE: I think you create a world with storytelling. Storytelling is world building. And so I get to create a reality for people that they can relate to. And everybody wants to be a good person. Most of us are convinced that we are good people. And so I try to appeal to that. I try to key into a person’s desire to be a good person. And on some level there’s an unspoken question of would a good person do the things that I’m describing or not do the things that I’m describing. And so I think my ability to manipulate an audience is based on their desire to be a good person and my desire to be a good person and our mutual desire to find common ground there.
MARY ELLEN SLAYTER: How do you decide who’s going to be the hero?
XERO SKIDMORE: It was me, actually. If I’m advocating on behalf of the hero, I’m a hero too. I think that, as a performer and not just as a storyteller, but also as a performer, I cannot remove myself from the stage. I cannot remove myself from… I’m part of the story now, as the storyteller. When we think about the grill, the person sitting around the fire, the person whose job it is in the tribe to tell the stories of the tribe and convey the history to the younger generation and to talk about the famous battles and the plagues and the archivist of society, I think that there’s a responsibility there that I have to take seriously, that I’m not so far removed from the historians and journalists of our society. Us artists who choose to tell stories have a very important job to do, because we tell those stories in a way that the writer of a textbook quite often cannot. Our main goal is to engage first and convey the reality of the story second. The artists engage in ways that other people can’t. And I think that that is a huge responsibility.
MARY ELLEN SLAYTER: And Xero had one final thought about influence.
XERO SKIDMORE: I think that influence gets a bad rap. I think when I often talk to my students about getting on stage and creating work, I always tell them like, “You’re trying to emotionally manipulate people, but try to use your power for good and not for evil.” We see a lot of propaganda out in the world right now. I think that influence should never be a bad thing in and of itself. I think it’s how you use it, or was I trying to go get people to buy a shoe that they maybe didn’t need? Possibly. But at the same time, I felt like I was telling someone’s story and everybody’s story is worthy of applause, I think. So for me, going back to that, again, it’s to connect to the humanity. I think that influence can be great if we can all see each other’s humanity.
Closing and Housekeeping
MARY ELLEN SLAYTER: So that’s it for this episode of Margins from Managing Editor. Find us on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you like to listen in. Subscribe now so you don’t miss a single episode.
ELENA VALENTINE: And if you like what you hear, share us with your friends — and rate us on your favorite podcast platform.
MARY ELLEN SLAYTER: If you want to hear more from the Managing Editor team, then there’s an easy way to to do that. We send an email every Friday morning. You can join the club at managingeditor.com/subscribe.
SPONSOR READ: Thanks to Showcase Workshop, the exclusive sponsor of this season of Margins. With Showcase Workshop, all of your marketing and sales collateral is in one place, ready to present to prospects on your device or by email. Learn more at showcaseworkshop.com/Margins.
ELENA VALENTINE: And a special thanks to the storytellers who made this show possible: producer Rex New and audio editor Marty “Madness” McPadden.
MARY ELLEN SLAYTER: We’ll see ya’ll next time.