This weekend is the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, an iconic event in this city for one of our clients. In the run-up to the event, Crain’s Chicago Business interviewed Carey Pinkowski, the executive race director and CEO of Chicago Event Management. He talked to the publication about some of his favorite stories from his 28 years with the Marathon, which turns 40 this year.
Funniest marathon moment?
The night before the race in 1990, I went out at 1 a.m. with another guy to check on the Porta-Johns, and we discovered that some of them had been dropped a half-mile too far north. We had to push 10 of them, two at a time, down Lake Shore Drive.
How’d that work out?
A police officer drove up and asked what we were doing, and I was thinking, “This isn’t in the job description.” But anyone who has run a marathon knows how important the Porta-John is.
Any unusual requests from top runners?
In 1999, Moses Tanui of Kenya and a couple other guys really wanted to see Michael Jackson’s childhood house, so I drove them out to Gary.
If you want to know more about the man behind the marathon, it’s a fun read. But it also reminded me of one of the biggest issues clients have: How to find and tell their most interesting stories.
More often than not, a brand treats its various marketing channels purely as a sales driver. Here’s a product post, here’s a tagline as a tweet, here’s a commercial disguised as a social video, etc. Meanwhile, the stories worth printing only see the light of day if a journalist calls and asks the right questions.
At the risk of sounding like we’re bragging on our client, the Marathon does a great job of communicating the excitement behind the race and the people who run it, particularly in social media. Sure, they have great stories to work with, but every event, company or brand does, too – if you can find a certain comfort in being open about life behind the scenes.
Even small company culture moments can be a benefit. We learned this lesson at TeamWorks last summer when we used a photo of an impromptu trip to a local ice cream parlor as our Twitter header. An industry contact within our CEO’s network saw it and sent it to him with a note: “With outings like this, I want to work for you.” (That photo is still there, btw.)
Here at TeamWorks, we talk a lot about being strategic with your content. But there’s also the tendency to overcorrect and workshop things to death. Sometimes it’s best to take off your CMO hat and have fun.
What kind of stories do you tell about your job when you’re amongst friends? When’s the last time you let your social media producer interview your CEO? What are your producers’ stories about their best/worst video shoots? Which product ideas never made it out of the concept stage and why? What social causes are important to your brand?
You know your brand better than anyone. But that’s a problem if you keep all the good stories within the walls of your corporate HQ and never share them with people eager to hear them.
Do you have a success story to share about a time when you or your brand brought people behind-the-scenes? What are some great examples of storytelling you’ve seen? Let us know in comments or follow us on Twitter and share your insights with us there.