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The power of real

February 23, 2007

One of the most remarkable and unusual films posted on YouTube, comes from an autistic lady, “silentmiaow”.

It’s remarkable because it’s the candid insight of a person, who, to outsiders, appears to be locked in a world of her own, because she is unable to speak by conventional means.

In the film, with the aid of computer speech technology, she explains her predicament. Her articulate storytelling allows us to take a trip inside her head, to discover her experiences and feelings first hand.

The film gives you a real understanding of what it must be like to be in her shoes.

Every year, millions of dollars are spent by non-profits who try to breakthrough our cynicism and laziness and make an appeal for money they can direct to a cause. Many of these efforts fail because they don’t let the people tell the story, or they don’t get the real stories out of the people, instead, they are so desperate to “package” everything that they end up hiding the truth behind a presenter or an ad and end up not making a connection.

A couple of other things-

“Silentmiaow’s” film is an interesting counterpoint for those who think YouTube is just a place where people upload and watch stupid cat videos.

Finally, for all the planners out there who often find themselves suffering through the guarded responses of respondents in focus groups, there’s also a lesson.

Respondents have to be turned into storytellers, because only then will we uncover the interesting insights we so depend on.

So next time you are planning on running a couple of focus groups, split the respondents in two; run one group as you would normally and for the other, give respondents a little bit more time, a webcam for their computer and some creative and experiential exercises that they can tell stories about directly to the camera, then compare the results of both groups and see where the most interesting insights come from.

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