The world of politics and policymaking may sound serious and dry, but success ultimately boils down to the ability to spin a great yarn. That was the message from author and broadcaster Sam Delaney, as he addressed University of Roehampton students.
Delaney, a journalist and podcaster who has worked in multiple media, spoke to students during the University of Roehampton’s Employability Week series of talks. He discussed his “Guerrilla Guide” to working in political media.
Delaney emphasised the importance of “harnessing the power of storytelling”, a skill that has assisted him throughout his career.
“It doesn’t matter how smart you are if you’re unable to communicate the things you want to communicate in a compelling way that will convince people or attain their attention,” he said.
Delaney reinforced his point by doing his own storytelling, offering an anecdote of the “unconventional way” he forged a successful career in media and politics using specific skills and attitudes.
In the 1990s, Delaney believed his future was set. He had graduated with a politics degree and was working as an intern for a Member of Parliament. Then one day he had a gut-check moment. He recalled the moment that he realised he wanted to switch careers and pursue other interests, describing
a mundane journey home from work on the District Line. Although he had little experience, he knew he wanted to break into journalism.
Delaney realised early on that simply knowing a lot about a subject was not the critical determinant of success.
“It didn’t matter if you were an expert or not in the subject as much as it did matter that you knew how to think of bright ideas and work out how to appeal to your audience,” he said.
Delaney draws inspiration from others in his field, some of whom had a career route similar route to his own. He said he admired the hustle they have shown by raising their profiles through different mediums such as podcasts and blogs.
As for how to gain essential storytelling skills, he recommended a best-selling book called Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. It has become a go-to text for amongst screenwriters and novelists.
“When you read it, you come away feeling like you can write an Oscar-winning movie,” Delaney said. “He breaks down the principles of storytelling so succinctly!”
By Selena Williams, UR Journalism student