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The Art of Effective Storytelling and its Role in PR

By October 5, 2018May 7th, 2021Public Relations

Compelling storytelling is an incredibly powerful way to communicate with your target audience. Digital storytelling is at the top of the list of communication trends that PR executives believe will dominate in the next five years. In the Global Communications Report 2017, released by the University of Southern California’s Center for Public Relations, the three top trends are digital storytelling, social listening and social purpose.

Let’s think about it: if you were shopping for a backpack, would you buy from a company that constantly tells you the number of bags they’ve sold in the past five years or would you buy from a brand that shows how your investment in its products helps those displaced by war? Most of us would go with the second option. But, why is this the case? Why is it that we prefer hearing a brand’s story to being hit by statistics? The reason is stories deliver information effectively, and we often imagine ourselves in the narrative and relate to the content more than a hard sell.
Example: How Cotopaxi leveraged storytelling to sell its brand

Cotopaxi sells outdoor gear to millennials and it’s mastered the art of telling amazing stories around its products. For example, Cotopaxi showcased one of its most famous products, Luzon Del Día, through a heartwarming video of factory workers that put their heart and souls into the backpacks. Cotopaxi’s brilliance was showing behind-the-scenes footage of what went into the product, not just an advertisement.

The backpacks were created from scratch by the same people who sewed them. The Phillipino people chose the fabric color, thread color and the many other aspects that went into creating a high-quality backpack.

The challenge for these designers was simple: every bag had to be different. No two bags could look alike. This challenge stretched their creativity and imagination. Their triumph became the product’s story. The proof’s in the pudding–it’s now a multimillion-dollar company.

The four P’s of effective storytelling

When done right, PR’s built around stories: whether it is your brand’s story, client success, employee spotlight or societal recognition–by understanding your audience inside and out you’ll be able to show your audience why your company matters, not just tell.

Steve Clayton, Microsoft’s Chief Storyteller, picks out the 4 P’s of a significant story.

People: the story has to be about someone, preferably a hero who experiences the hero’s journey.
Places: where your products are manufactured, or unsung heroes live.
Process: how your finished goods are produced.
Products: telling a story to launch a product instead of blatantly selling.

So, what role does storytelling play in PR?

1. Drawing your audience into your brand narrative makes your news and content relatable.
2. Influencing changes in thought and behavior is a powerful way to convince and convert.
3. Getting the attention of your audience cuts through the noise and gets your message heard.
4. Helping communicate technical concepts makes content exciting and easily digestible.
5. Building your brand voice creates a positive perception–you can’t copy a great story.

Public relation’s core goal is to build mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and its core audiences. Effective storytelling adds value to this process by enabling brands to communicate in a language of which their many viewers can relate. Remembering to evoke positive associations of your brand with your audience is the key to ultimate success.

Until next time!

Critical Mention

Mary Ade

Mary Ade, a professional B2B content writer and marketer residing in Nigeria, helps B2B and tech companies attract new visitors to their websites and convert them into customers with engaging and compelling content that gets shared on social media. She’s freelanced for countless companies and continues to write a multitude of articles on various subjects in the world of public relations.


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