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Telling Purpose-Driven Stories with Purpose-Driven Studios: Q&A with Myriad

Jordan P. Kelley, Content Director, Brand Storytelling

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Brands looking to connect with audiences through shared values often turn to a purpose-driven model of brand storytelling to put those values on display. This, however, is becoming increasingly difficult to do properly. Audiences who care about causes like social justice, the environment, and groups rights and care are more discerning and informed than ever before. ‘Purpose washing’ and ‘virtue signaling’ are now part of common vernacular and can be sniffed out from a mile away.

The good news is that the workaround for this potential pitfall is simple: don’t fake it. But simple isn’t always easy, and it can be hard to determine just what it takes not to appear false when championing brand values. A great place to start is to partner with production companies who are already well entrenched in purpose-driven storytelling. Companies like Myriad, a video production agency out of Raleigh, North Carolina that has been making original content with an emphasis on social impact for decades.

Their latest film, released on Veteran’s day, is called "Voicemails To My Future Self: Vol 2", a short film inspired by what are known as ‘Wingmen’ - friendships that help prevent Veteran suicides. It’s the second installment in the series; Volume 1 was made in collaboration with poet Javon Johnson, revealing the struggle he faced in teaching his young, black nephew about the complexities of interacting with the police.

Brand Storytelling caught up with Tony Cope, Co-founder of Myriad, and the Director of Voicemails To My Future Self: Vol 2, to learn more about making social impact films and why brands should work with experienced storytellers to do the same:

Tell us more about Myriad.

Myriad is a creative video agency based in Raleigh, NC.

We make videos that make a difference. With an emphasis on technology and social impact, Myriad sees creativity as a force for good and video as the language it speaks in. Our expertise is finely-honed video production skills. But we back it up with fresh ideas, in-depth strategy, and seamless client services. We work with in-house brand and marketing teams to develop daring video concepts that speak to your vision as a company. After decades of working with Fortune 1000 clients on everything from episodic series to one-off videos— we’ve learned how to adapt anything.

Oh, and we just became a Certified B Corp!

What is the agency’s internal definition of a social impact film and in what ways do the films you make uphold that definition?

Impact is driven by your heart and your soul's need to make something better. It's always deeply personal. Whatever that desire is, that is what feeds every single piece and part of the work.

For us, that ends up resulting in a film. Then, by working with other individuals and community groups, we try to leverage that into a direct action — something that can inspire true change.

What inspired the production of ‘Voicemails to my Future Self'? Why make it a series?

Voicemails are such an interesting time capsule, in a personal narrative form. They are something everyone understands; that they will listen to, and then respond. Each Voicemail film is a short that focuses on a different societal or cultural topic. We feel like they are a perfect forum to deliver important stories in a unique way.

Why a series? There seems to be no end to the problems in our world. This format allows us to highlight a myriad of voices, ideas and questions.

What went into the making of Vol. 2? Who is behind it and whose story does it tell?

Vol. 2 is a compilation of so many tragedies and stories. I guess it started with my own. My family has survived 2 active shooters, and we lost a friend and neighbor to gun suicide. I was having conversations with gun violence survivors when I was introduced to Michael “Top” Washington. Top is a Marine Veterans who was suicidal and also lost his son, also a Marine, in Afghanistan. I talked with over a dozen veterans, many who are good friends, who have been directly affected by veteran suicide. This became a collection of all of these stories.

What kind of response do you see when you create films and videos like the Voicemails series?

We drop into so many conversations about the impact we want to see in the world. These are films, because that's what we do, and how we express ourselves. However, these are simply conversation starters. One of the most prevalent issues with impact and change, is that most of these topics are overwhelming and people tend to shut down from the magnitude of trying to deal with such profound problems.

If we can fuel conversations we can give people a starting point. If people have a starting point, then they have taken the first step in making an impact.

So far, the responses have been humbling. Like with our first episode, around racial justice, the comments and personal stories we hear from viewers is the most impactful. In addition, Vol 1 won national advertising awards against global brands. These films are hitting a chord and we are looking ahead to future episodes with brand partners.

Why should brands interested in communicating their values work with companies like yours that make social impact films?

Companies that speak from the heart, that seek to make an impact, they’re compelling by nature of being so honest and engaged. If you only sell a thing, you're only interesting to me when I need that thing. It's a transaction. However, if I see you trying to change the world then I want to be a part of that. I want to talk about that. I trust more.

What's next in this series?

Our third episode is in development and we are actively seeking a brand partner. There are few topics on the table. For example, our DP and Editor recently became an American Citizen. A piece around immigration is at the top of his mind. For me, there is no more pressing and relevant issue to make an impact with others than women's health and autonomy. The summer of 2022 made that unavoidable. Here again, a large part of the issue and divides is that people see only sides, and not each other. Conversations are very cathartic and even though you may not find agreement with another, if you engage in a conversation, then you will always see that person and it will change both of you for the better.


About Tony Cope

Tony Cope is a Co-founder of Myriad, and the Director of Voicemails To My Future Self: Vol 2. He’s also a gun violence survivor, 3 times over. The experiences have led him towards advocacy and leadership roles with Moms Demand Action NC, Equality NC, NAACP and other advocacy organizations.


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