Digital Storytelling and Branding with Adam Bryant
By Alexandria Watts
“Whatever you’re doing, whether you’re reporting hard news and you’re trying to get out information, or if you’re marketing to try to convince them to watch your TV show or buy your brand, communicating that idea always starts with writing”
These were the words of Adam Bryant as he spoke to an intimate crowd of students and community partners in the Lowell Thomas Screening Room on Oct. 18, 2017 as part of the new Center for Social Media guest speaker line-up.
Titled Speaking Your Audience’s Language: The Heart of Digital Storytelling, this event was led by senior professor and the director of the Center for Social Media Jennie Donohue in Q&A style. Her and Bryant’s themes of discussion included the importance of understanding an audience, using the human experience or emotional appeal to frame a story, the marriage between writing and visuals, and, most importantly, the true weight the written word holds.
Bryant is currently the Director of Digital Media at AMC, a cable channel most notably known for its hit series The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men. He and his team work closely on the program Better Call Saul, where they created the Emmy-award winning “Los Pollos Hermanos” spoof training videos to promote the Breaking Bad prequel in addition to bringing fans of Breaking Bad to the new series.
Before his career at AMC, Bryant briefly wrote for Maxim and eventually resettled to TV Guide, where he rose to the position of the website’s Executive Director. At TV Guide, he was also tasked with reinventing the company’s brand while respecting the brand’s origins.
“Everyone thought of their grandmother’s magazine lying on the coffee table. We were doing daily news stories covering the business of entertainment and also the celebrities,” explained Bryant.
Throughout the event, Bryant always brought the conversation back to how significant writing truly is in almost every field.
He stated, “The written word and communicating larger ideas has served me in terms of understanding how to use those techniques I used for reporting hard news, or making guys laugh at Maxim, or whatever it be. Communicating whatever that idea is making an impact.” Bryant later went on to say, “It all starts and ends in writing in whatever you’re doing”
During his undergraduate career at the University of Tennessee, Bryant picked up a journalism major, enabling him to follow his passion with words but in a more practical, real-world sense. He was never one for hard news stories or inverted pyramids, but he was fascinated by the fast-paced news flow of doing something new every day and wanted to combine this aspect of journalism with the creative side of the industry.
Bryant’s passion for creative writing spans all the way back to kindergarten. With a bright smile, he reminisced how he taught himself to read and read to his peers of four and five years old. Impressed, his teacher allowed him to bring a tote bag of approximately his height filled with books home with him for the summer.
His kindergarten teacher was not the only educator that inspired Bryant to pursue writing. His fifth-grade teacher as well as Dr. Lyn Lepre, Dean of Communication at Marist and one of Bryant’s professors at the University of Tennessee, has also inspired him to keep writing and to challenge himself in taking on internships.
“As I get older in my life and realize whatever the second half of my career might be, I’m drawn towards the classroom in a way to come back and share whatever I may have learned,” shared Bryant.
Aside from stressing the gravity writing holds and branding, Bryant also spoke about the importance of angles, specifically that of the emotional appeal. He gave the example of a piece he wrote concerning the release of the XBox. Instead of focusing on the console and how quickly it sold out, Bryant began his piece with a description of a mother sobbing in the store because she could not purchase the XBox for her son.
“It’s reporting the news but with that filter of the human experience or telling an actual story,” explained Bryant.
Bryant additionally shared some advice to current college students. He encouraged that students do as much as they can while they are still in school, to keep busy, to never say no to anything, and to keep being hungry in working towards their goals.
“Ambition is taught as a dirty word,” Bryant remarked. “But I think if you’re working in this business, which is a fast-paced business, I think people want you to know that you have a drive and they want to see your hunger for it. So the best way to do that is to show up, be there, take on any task, and ask for more. Show them that you are passionate and that you want to be there and that will be respected.”