10 stepping stones to great story-telling for communications and PR

There’s a lot of talk lately in the PR industry about “story-telling”. Is it something new? Absolutely not – it’s really about our ability as communicators to engage our stakeholders with a story. Many PR practitioners are already doing this, while others could benefit from taking a few moments to consider the “story” before reaching out to the media or other stakeholders.

We all remember stories from when we were children. Many of these stories had moral or a lesson, intertwined within a fabulous story of a beautiful princess kissing a frog or an ugly duckling who was really a beautiful swan, which was meant to teach us right from wrong.

Within a memorable story, we understand and remember the message.

There are plenty of ways that we can become better story-tellers in communications and PR.

1) Be a clear communicator 

You can’t be a good story-teller unless your communications are clear, simple and easy to understand. Use language and words that will be interesting and engaging, don’t bore people with silly words that you looked up in a thesaurus.

2) Tell a story

What’s your story? Why should people care? Does your new product transform people’s lives, if so how? Will it reduce pollution or will people simply have a good time with it? What’s the story of your news or information?

3) Humanise it

How does your story impact people? Talk about the impact it has on people, animals or the environment. Journalists love real case studies. Do you have any? If so, include those as part of your story.

4) Sound normal

We are human beings, so when you tell your story, you need to write like a human being. You need to write like you would talk to people in day to day life. That makes your story genuine and real.

5) Get other people to tell the story

A classic tool of good communications & PR is to find third-party endorses. Who else can be part of your story? Can you get a quote from someone you’re working on a project with, or include an interview with a customer or stakeholder happy to be affected by it?

6) Be authentic 

I’m always going on about this, but authentic communications is really where all communicators should be. We need to be genuine and tell the truth, or people won’t believe us. Now there are times when we can’t share all information due to confidentiality reasons, or stock market reporting regulations, but we should strive to be as authentic and as genuine as possible.

7) Develop original content 

Being a good story teller means you create your own content, you don’t steal the story from somewhere else. Now there’s no problem with getting inspiration from other sources, but ultimately the story should be your own, not someone else’s.

8) Avoid the marketing speak

Isn’t it boring when you read a story that is so full of marketing and sales speak? If you’re trying to engage with your stakeholders or have the media interested in a story, kick out the marketing speak and focus on the genuine story.

9) It’s about the audience

A good PR and communications story is about the audience, rather than the plot, character or author.

10) What do you want them to do?

At the end of your story, what do you want the reader to do? Be more aware of a specific issue, buy a product, be impressed by your CSR programme, etc? Your story needs to help address this in a subtle way, with no flavour of salesy over-promotion.

Keeping these top 10 tips in your mind when creating stories for communications campaigns will help to craft the right stories for your stakeholders. Seth Godin once wisely said, “Marketing PR isn’t about the stuff you sell; it’s about the stories you tell.”


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