We hear so much about the power of storytelling in communications these days. But is PR now synonymous with storytelling? If, as PR professionals, we are to embrace narrative-building as our main focus – harnessing visual media as our helpmates – where does that leave the more traditional PR tools? What about the humble press statement? Has the death knell sounded for the simple ‘who, what, why, where, when and how’ of the traditional news release? Surely not every message can be emotive, entertaining and have a beginning, a middle and a - hopefully happy - ending?
In its widest sense, PR is about reputation. Having a story to tell builds your reputation because it brings your brand to life and helps you connect with your audience. If your target market buys into your story – the values and attributes that your brand represents – they will be more likely to identify with and embrace your brand and, of course, buy your products.
For brands, then, storytelling is crucial. But great stories can be personal too – after all, some brands are built on the reputation of the person who founded them. The cult of celebrity, too, is built on what we think we know about a particular individual’s personality, attributes and life choices.
Business leaders can also use the power of a great narrative – communicating a business plan or company mission by involving employees in the story behind it can make the difference between engagement and apathy.
As communications professionals, we can use our skills to help build a compelling narrative in all these cases and more. But we shouldn’t forget that in business, stories need to have a point. They need to be fit for purpose – right for the message, the audience and the business need.
I believe there is still a need for the humble press statement (“Company X is to withdraw product Y from the market due to …”) but while I was about to claim that not every message can be turned into a story, I can already see that Company X will need to explain why it is withdrawing product Y from the market, and this need creates an opportunity. And it’s not just the press statement that has a back story – a good press release tells its own tale – however succinct; one that a journalist or editor can put straight onto the page if it is as well-written as it should be.
Stories don’t always need to be long, they don’t have to be highly emotive or very detailed, but if we accept that every opportunity to communicate is a chance to deepen our relationship with our audience – be they customers, shareholders, employees, colleagues or fans – then we need to embrace the art and craft of storytelling. That’s why theblueballroom created a storytelling workshop. Aimed at professionals working across internal communications, marketing and HR departments within all industry sectors, and run either within organisations or at our Farnham offices, this fun and engaging workshop takes the clichés out of communications and helps participants to find and then tell their story to the right audience in a way that will engage and enthuse them.
As communications specialists, we recognise that the challenge in telling a good story is to construct narratives that are worthy of the attention of the audience and that stand the test of time. In creating our storytelling workshop, we hope to be able to share what we’ve learnt through years of telling our clients’ stories to help you find, shape and share yours too.