Though many PR professionals gauge success by media placements, the ultimate goal is to get people talking about the brand and buying its wares.
Learning how to tell a great PR or marketing story is just as important as writing a great press release. As author and entrepreneur Nick Morgan
points out: “Facts and figures and all the rational things that we think are important in the business world actually don’t stick in our minds at all.”
Compelling, emotional yarns are the stories that stick in people's minds. Great storytellers have learned the elements that make a story sharable and compelling: Heroes struggling against villains and difficult odds.
Identify your audience and a message that will resonate with them, Carolyn O’Hara advises in "How to Tell a Great Story
." It’s helpful to build profiles of some of your target consumers so that as you write, you can ask, “Would this interest my target audience?”
Consumers want to read stories where people similar to them take the spotlight. Your story should incorporate the customer as the "hero" and your brand/product as the “sidekick.”
Consider the path of the “hero’s journey” laid out by American scholar Joseph Campbell. Ken Lopez of A2L Consulting has rearranged Campbell’s steps into a chart more relevant to storytellers today
. Many of the steps offer substantive methods for crafting customer success stories.
A struggle that the “hero” conquers
Most captivating stories start with a hero facing a challenge. A core PR story structure, then, should be: A situation acts as the “villain” that the hero (a customer) conquers with the aid of the product.
Conflict is not about spectacular events or painful emotions — it’s about values, according to Joe Bunting in "The Secret to Creating Conflict
." The perfect conflict or “villain” is the obstacle that stands in the way of the customer’s values.
People share stories when they feel like the message is made exclusively for them. Instead of trying to write a story and send it out to the masses, target its headline and subhead to specific demographics or locales.
While third-person narratives can certainly appeal to customers, consider mixing in first-person content from the customer’s point of view. Satisfied customers are often willing to share their success stories. PR storytellers can use their writing skills to add color and characters to the story.
Photos, graphics and videos complement and enhance stories, or, sometimes, can stand alone as the story. By incorporating visual stimuli, the PR storyteller can better attract and connect with their audiences.
Carefully create the supporting visual content: a poorly-constructed infographic or poorly-produced video can spoil the story instead of enhancing it.
Give special attention to:
How the image will be shared across social media. Select and test photo size and aspect ratio to assure that the image is large and clear in newsfeeds.
- How it draws the viewer’s eye. The most compelling images contain a single, large object on which viewers can focus. When photos have too much activity, it’s hard to digest the visual information.
- Directional flow. If you’re creating an infographic, its organization should make sense — whether it’s chronological, a step-by-step, etc.
Think of your favorite childhood fairy tale or movie. Children’s stories demonstrate that simple and straightforward stories are memorable, even for adults. Instead of bogging down readers with irrelevant details, captivate them with specifics that evoke feelings.
News announcements seldom persuade customers. Stories containing challenges, heroes, and emotion show the brand’s human side and relate to customer issues.
Give consumers a reason to believe in your brand by creating characters that help customers overcome their obstacles. Products are designed and developed to solve customer issues; tell stories that depict those solutions. That’s how PR stories get shared.
William Comcowich is the founder of monitoring and measurement firm CyberAlert. A version of this article originally appeared on the CyberAlert blog.