Storytelling: From a Mere Nicety to a PR Necessity

Joanna Ford
Director of Public Relations and Social Media
Aloysius Butler & Clark
 

Gone are the days when the “newness” of a news item was ample motivation to get people interested and mobilized to support a cause, buy a product or develop brand loyalty. Think about it: When was the last time you saw a press conference—including those at the White House—that didn’t include at least one member from the community sharing the impact of the news on him or her? Consider the same question about recent articles you’ve read, TV news reports you’ve seen or interviews you’ve heard.

Not long ago, all that consumers needed to be motivated to action was an “authority”—CEO, celebrity or expert in the field—telling them to do something. Today, while still critical to effective PR, authorities offering facts don’t carry the same motivational power. At least half of the power of persuasion now lies in the hands of your audience’s peers—that is, people who can share how it will personally change their lives. Therefore, to be successful, a PR or marketing campaign must employ effective storytelling that hits home with your target.

This doesn’t mean that you cut out the facts and authorities. You must ensure that your stories always include these vital components, which serve as affirmations for consumers that they are acting intelligently and not merely on emotion. To capture attention, communicate key messages and drive desired action, you must use powerful stories that make a connection,

supported by facts that close the sale. Whether it’s an article, an interview or a pitch to a reporter, emotional stories and indisputable authority statements must complement each other in a way that is cohesive and believable.

While every story will take on its own life based on your goals, you should make sure you do the following:

· Know your audience and talk specifically to them. There’s no faster way to lose an audience than with a story that attempts to talk to everyone and anyone.

· Be transparent. Today’s consumers can sense a “smoke screen” from a mile away and find the facts instantly. Trust lost by lack of transparency may never be regained.

· Be real. Today’s consumers are incredibly savvy in detecting if a story is forced or filled with half-truths. Make sure the person telling the story is able to speak 100 percent believably, intelligently and passionately about the topic.

· Keep it simple. Don’t let your story be overrun by emotion or a story within a story. Take the straightest path to your objective.

· Tell a story that has not been told. Take time to dig deep and develop a story that will be unique and unexpected to your audience.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joanna is an executive leader for AB&C’s PR and social media team, leveraging her extensive experience in strategic communications planning, social engagement and media relations. She’s worked with some of the Delaware Valley’s and the nation’s leading companies, including Dow Chemical, Darden Restaurant Group and Essity (formerly SCA Americas). Her skill and savvy have consistently brought her clients national media attention in high-profile outlets such as the TODAY Show, 20/20, Good Morning America, the New York Times, USA Today, Redbook and Ladies’ Home Journal.

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