Effective storytelling


Most companies believe that PR is all about selling their business, and this is true to an extent. However, for potential customers to truly understand the positive attributes of the brand, it always helps to target their emotional rather than logical faculties. This is where storytelling comes into play. An excellently structured, emotive story allows people to understand how the brand can benefit them; and benefits are infinitely more powerful than facts when you’re looking to make a sale! Just as we all love to witness (and vicariously experience) the trials and tribulations of a protagonist in a movie or book, the same is equally true when weaving stories about corporations, products and customers. Here are some of the key attributes to an effective story in a PR context.

The fundamentals
Just as a traditional story must have an enticing opening, a climactic finale and a relatable protagonist, so should your PR story. In order for there to be a satisfying ending, the protagonist must first go through hardship and conflict – the rollercoaster of emotions encountered on the journey is the precise reason why the best stories are so compelling. Typically, the problem or conflict is introduced during the first act, in the second act the hero struggles to resolve the problem and in the final act everything comes together for an impactful climax. While negative endings are often appropriate in the realm of books and film to serve as a moral lesson (take Scarface for example), corporate stories are best ended on a positive note.

Domino’s Pizza has one of the best PR stories around. Founder Tom Monaghan started a pizza store with his brother and later traded in his Volkswagen Beetle for his brother’s share in the business. After difficult beginnings in the early 1960s, Domino’s Pizza now generates nearly 2 billion dollars in annual revenue! Stories such as these tend to reach great heights of notoriety as the ‘rags to riches’ tale is something that everyone can relate to in one way or another.

The elements of greatness
Provided the story is well written and covers all the fundamentals, there are certain factors which can make a good story great. In one of Seth Godin’s blog posts, he discusses the elements of a great story, and one of the key issues he mentions is the inclusion of subtlety. There’s no need to spell out how great your company is or to try to get people onboard with your way of thinking. The best stories are emotive but not manipulative. In other words, the narrative must be powerful while still allowing the audience to come to their own conclusions. Seth Godin also stresses that great stories must be authentic and credible – if people get any sense that your are embellishing the truth or that your tale is disingenuous, the story will not be received well.

Securing media coverage
The media is not going to give your company coverage without a good reason, but an excellently crafted story can often generate media attention.  Reporters want something newsworthy to sink their teeth into – an unimaginative timeline of your company’s evolution full of lots of logical facts is not going to cut it!  For a reporter to want to cover your brand, your story must stand out, impart something new, impact people’s emotions and convey what’s unique.

Irrespective of what industry you’re in or how eventful the history of your company has been, there is always an angle that can be taken in order to make your story come to life and impact people emotionally.


Photo: Evgenyatamanenko | Dreamstime.com


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