It was 2013 when Holly, the adorable swimming cat 🐱🌊, went viral worldwide 🌍.
Now, 7 years later, when I think about this viral event (that took place as a result of my live-tweeting Holly's swim), I feel kind of sad.
First and foremost, Holly has since passed away so there's that #RIPHolly 🥀🙏
Secondly, back then, I wasn't as prepared for how this visual story could be "twisted" into other not-as-positive narratives.
The original story I crafted was intended to highlight cat care benefits or unique exercise angles for cats and so on (aka content marketing on behalf of a client). But as the narrative began to go viral, the story took entirely a life of its own.
While most media outlets did stick with my pet care/health-focused story angle, some instead chose to focus on alternative narratives, including:
1) Making fun of the "fat cat"
2) Making fun of the cat's owner
3) Poking fun at news anchors who'd crack up (literally) at the image of the cat swimming while on air
The "fat cat" twist where some outlets and readers made fun of the overweight feline was just sad, especially when the point of the story was that cats could not only exercise but they could also swim.
Then some of the comments I saw, where folks were making fun of the cat's owner because she was "just as overweight" as the cat, were heartbreaking 💔. Other comments were like "why the F is the owner not swimming herself" or "the audacity of the fat a** owner" and so on.
Holly's owner was a completely innocent person who lovingly cared for her cat's health and graciously allowed me to not only film her with swimming Holly but also gave permission to share the Holly story online. She did not deserve the rude comments a handful of jerks on the internet did unleash 😣
Last but hardly least, the unstitched news anchor -- Susan Bahoric from WDBJ-7 in Roanoke, Va -- completely lost it during the Holly segment. With deep regret, Ms. Bahoric's good natured but endless chuckling took the positive attention away from Holly's story and, as a result, an unexpected sub-story emerged: news anchors who totally lose it on air.
** News Anchor Completely Loses it on GMA **
** Anderson Cooper's Ridiculist segment **
You get the idea.
As I reflect on my career's past highlights and how I move forward in 2020, I can't help but think about Holly, the feline I affectionately dubbed as the "Aquatic Kitty." This cat was nothing short of amazing. And so was her owner, who doted on Holly with so much care and sincere love.
If you're creating visual storytelling narratives and content stories to share with audiences, please be mindful that the narratives you develop can transform into unexpected sub-stories you'd never imagine or intend.
Now when I develop narratives for brands, I create alternate story possibilities in hopes of more proactively anticipating unwelcome comments or story twists.
The Holly story is the only story, thus far for me, where I had this experience ... but it's an important experience to learn from and I hope that in sharing this tale, the authenticity of Holly's story can be restored.
Thanks for reading and wishing you all wonderful visual storytelling endeavors ahead 🙏
~ Mayra 💔
The client needed assistance understanding the kinds of narratives that would work well as content for its website, blog, and social media channels.