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Unthinkable Media: Make Shows, Not Pieces

Stories, ideas, and podcasts for driven makers and marketers.

By: Jay Acunzo on May 4th, 2018

The Goosebumps Walkaway

This article originally appeared in my weekly newsletter, Damn the Best Practices. Get one new story every Monday morning to be better than best practices. Subscribe here.

You and me are terrible at goodbyes.

Whether we’re addressing a reader, listener, or a viewer, or maybe a client who paid us to create the project in the first place, whenever we finish our work, we rarely end with enough oomph.

Sometimes, we’ve dedicated too much effort to the scoping, opening, and middle of the project … and the ending is a rushed afterthought ahead of the deadline. Other times, we simply drop people off a cliff. (I don’t know how many speakers I’ve seen who end by going, “Aaaaand with THAT … I think I’m out of time. Okay, thanks! I think we have questions now or…?) Still other times, we want others to take action to benefit our cause, so the ending is simply a call-to-action. Download my ebook. Try a product demo. Subscribe. Rate. Review. Share. Buy. 

But what if the very best way to end our work with an audience OR a client wasn’t to overtly ask for a single thing?

What if not asking for a single action … could trigger more actions?

What if we gave them the Goosebumps Walkaway?

I’m a sucker for bighearted shows. (I know, I know, so shocking if you’ve heard like five seconds of anything I’ve hosted.). Some of my favorite shows include The Office, Parks and Rec, Scrubs, How I Met Your Mother … and, more recently, New Girl. It’s the latter show that revealed a concept that we can all learn from — one that made me go, This is EXACTLY our problem!

The concept was called the Goosebumps Walkaway.

In the show, the perpetually anxious, angry, and disheveled Nick (played by Jake Johnson) falls for the beautiful-if-cynical Reagan (Megan Fox). In one particular episode, it’s Reagan’s last day before moving away, and Nick tells his roommate Schmidt that he wants to say goodbye to Reagan in a big way: He’s gonna “hit her with a goosebumps walkaway.”

“I don’t know who he is. Is he an old-fashioned baseball player?” replies the metrosexual, perpetually quippy but confused Schmidt.

“The goosebumps walkaway is the line that the guy says to the girl in the movie that gives her goosebumps,” says Nick, “and then he walks away forever. It’s that line that–”

“–that haunts her,” Schmidt chimes in, smirking. He finally gets it. “That consumes her, that rings in her ear for all of eternity, granting you … immortality.”

“You’re damn right!”

Unfortunately, delivering a goosebumps walkaway is no easy feat. Later in the episode, Nick botches his attempt to share a memorable line to Reagan. He approaches her in the bathroom for no apparent reason and shouts, “Sayonara, Sammy! Sayonara … Sammy. Then he awkwardly steps into the shower and slowly pulls the curtain shut. (“Who the hell is Sammy?!” Nick later complains to Schmidt.)

Like the awkward Nick, we want to be remembered thanks to the work we put in — remembered by our teams, our bosses, our clients, and/or our audiences. Also like Nick, we often botch the chance to do that well. When it’s time to say goodbye and end an engagement or an experience with a powerful moment, we instead shout our own versions of “Sayonara, Sammy!”

Enough. Yes, all kinds of “best practices” exist for how to up-sell or create CTAs or to move someone from Thing 1 We Want Them To Do over to Thing 2 We Want Them To Do. But what if the best way to create a loving, loyal, engaged community or client base wasn’t to say anything self-serving at all? What if the point was to leave them FEELING something?

I think one of the most powerful but underused things we can do in our projects is to conclude with more power. What can we do to give them goosebumps, to leave them feeling an emotional tie to what they experienced — one they continue thinking about long after we’ve parted ways? THAT is how you get someone to come back time and time again, which is the new mandate of our careers right now.

As sitcom writers are wont to do, a second storyline emerges in that same episode of New Girl that “just so happens” to relate to the same theme as Nick’s goosebumps walkaway idea. Schmidt scolds his and Nick’s other roommate Winston for his choice of clothing. Winston has just removed a sweatshirt to reveal a ridiculous tank-top, and Schmidt is worried about what people might think.

Winston responds by saying, “When are you gonna stop worrying about what other people say? When I look into my suggestion box, it’s full. People have a lot to say about the way I live my life, but there is only one comment that I pay attention to. Know what the card says? It says, ‘Great job, keep it up!’ And you know who filled out that card? ME! You know how I know? Because I recognize my mother frickin’ handwriting!” (He spikes his sweatshirt to the ground, and he marches out the door.)

Says Schmidt, mouth hanging open: “Now that’s a Goosebumps Walkaway.”

So what’s yours? What are you doing in your work to make others FEEL something or THINK something at the end? Are you leaving them wanting more? Or are you sharing a bunch of housekeeping, or demands, or momentum-killers?

Instead, what if you kept that momentum going?

What if you gave them some goosebumps when you walked away?



Some of my Goosebumps Walkaways:

· “Voices” (Unthinkable Season 2) — the surprising and hilarious story of Lisa Schneider, Chief Digital Officer at Merriam-Webster Dictionary, and her witty, warm, and wonderful team. (Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify)

· “Sound Comes First” (Unthinkable Season 3) — the unlikely but awesome story of the Grado family, who hand-build headphones beloved by some of the world’s top musicians (Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify)

· “Throw the Sharks Back: Where Exceptional Creators Focus Their Efforts” — the story of one childhood moment I’ll never forget, wandering onto some rocks by the water with my Poppie (article)

You don’t need more tips & tricks.

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Founder of Unthinkable Media. Believer that exceptional work happens when you find and follow what makes you an exception. Ex-Google, HubSpot, NextView (VC). Speaks on stages and into microphones for a living. What a weird and wonderful life. #MakeShowsNotPieces

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