In years to come, our children will look back and be amazed that we weren’t talking about the pandemic morning, noon and night.
Harold Nicolson’s diary of the Second World War is powerful because the backbench MP would note the day and think through what could come next.
Samuel Pepys is more like it. There’s a few plague references but one day he’s down and the next its all about beating the Dutch off Lowestoft or trying to shag women behind his wife’s back.
Which leads me to a Facebook page Max Out in the Lakes about a bloke who walks his dog that has been my saviour in lockdown.
I don’t really want to watch the news, what I want is to see dogs walking and a bloke called Kerry walk on deserted paths around Keswick in the Lake District.
My late Dad was from Keswick and I still miss him. The running commentary Kerry gives of which hills you can see was the commentary Dad would have given.
Here’s an example with a walk on the side of a picturesque mountain on the side of Derwentwater called Cat Bells.
Why does this work?
It’s around 20-minuites long, just short of the optimum 21-minute length.
It does that Facebook Live thing of providing value by being in that particular spot at that particular time. Keswick in the pandemic is off-limits to people who want to go so it becomes more valuable seeing it live.
Dogs always work because they’re dogs and if you grow tired of the scenery one of the three dogs drifts into view.
Jonah Berger in his book ‘Contagion’ wrote of the six reasons why people share. Firstly, because you’ll look good, he wrote. Because its everyday, because its emotional, because its helpful, because its public and therefore sharable but also because its a piece of story telling.
Kerry’s story is both emotional and a piece of story telling. A man who suffered from depression coaxed out of his house by a dog a few doors away called Max who he then took for a walk and then became owner of.
He ignores the comments as they come in but the low level story telling works brilliantly in his daily live streams. Max has hurt his foot, Paddy has had an operation, the rain is about to fall or they’re exploring a path to see how the trees are. There’s a reason to keep watching.
Yet, Kerry has monetised what he does. He sells Max Out in the Lake District books, souvenirs and coffee from an online store but he ‘sells’ directly to his audience rarely. What he does falls into the 80/20 split with 20 being the call-to-action.
He sells escapism. If we are interested in how to get people to do stuff in the pandemic we need to understand that we want to be distracted from the pandemic. Those times we turn our heads to a selling message, be very careful what you say. Be boring and repetitive and those messages won’t land.
As Max the dog shows, we don’t want rolling news we just want a break from it all.