Why PR isn't about the stuff you sell, but the stories you tell
17th October 2017
As PR and communications professionals, we are story tellers. We look for stories. We pitch stories to journalists and stakeholders. We track stories in the press, on social media and on websites. We tell our customers’ stories, offering something for their audience to relate to, and – ultimately – we convert that audience to customers.
A Start, Middle and End
Brand and marketing narratives are no different really from classic story telling and they share common aims: first, there’s a context or backdrop; then there must be a plot or denouement, often with a dilemma to overcome, a problem to solve or an issue to raise; and finally a conclusion that must satisfy the audience. The story must resonate and be authentic, with characters and themes with which readers can empathise.
Storytelling is as old as the hills and intrinsic to human nature. From myths, legends, folk tales and moral fables, it’s an art form that’s at the heart of what makes us human and how we relate to others. Storytelling is also at the core of effective public relations, as we use it to influence reputations, perceptions and behaviours. Stories must be original and compelling in order to bring brands alive. There’s no point just sharing a quote or statistic – e.g. sales up 46% - the facts must be couched in relevant context that rings true with the readers. It must spark imagination, connect with the audience and their businesses and ultimately, provoke a call to action.
One key technique to remember, taken from Shakespeare himself - one of the world’s most prolific writers: gripping stories must have conflicts to win or problems to solve. Transfer this to PR. We always try to identify and convey a compelling conflict and position our clients as the protagonists who are actively working to resolve the problem. The range of these problems (the ‘villains of the piece’) can be broad-reaching - resistance to change, antiquated products, new legislation, a crowded marketplace, misunderstanding of a client’s product or gaps in available products and service.
Then follows the denouement or resolution. The scene has been set and the villain identified; now it’s time for the solution. The client’s position has gathered strength and credibility over a period of time (in storytelling terms it’s the ‘rising action’) and is building up to the story’s climax. The problem is solved – the client saved the day. Most importantly, the client’s solution is accepted as the new norm, and has a mental or physical call to action impact on the audience.
A word of warning though – this may be storytelling, but the stories must always be based on fact. If they’re not, you WILL be found out. When it comes to writing for business, the word ‘story’ does not equate to lying or exaggeration!
Who’s Telling Your Story?
Brouha has been lucky enough to work with many top clients over the last decade who have fantastic stories to tell in their own right. We’ve been proud to broadcast and amplify their stories through our strategic narrative. And that’s the point – we never write anything for the sake of it. Everything has a purpose and is a building block to help customers achieve the commercial objectives we set out to achieve for them at the start of working together.
In increasingly tough and crowded markets, finding ways to stand out from your competition means demonstrating to customers that you have new and original solutions to support them. Businesses flourish when they have a clear sense of purpose and the narrative is a powerful way of getting these points of difference into the market place.
Is 2018 the time for your story to be told?