According to the 2017 Global Communications Report published by the University of South California’s Centre for Public Relations, the top three trends that would dominate public relations practice in the next decade are Digital Storytelling, Social Listening, and Social Purpose. Storytelling actually tops the list of communication tactics in modern public relations. And the reason is simple: People are becoming more aware of direct and conventional marketing strategies, such that they are now somewhat impervious to such obvious ads or even avoid consuming them.

Again, promotional communication has gone beyond simply talking about your products or enumerating your offerings, as more emphasis is now on humanising your brand, evincing the ‘personality’ of your brand, eliciting your brand essence, and telling the unique story of your brand to build and sustain a long-lasting emotional connection with your target audience. This is the essentiality of PR storytelling. It is the art of gaining attention for and generating interest in your brand by recounting its narratives in a manner that forges relationships with your target audience. PR storytelling is very powerful. But how do you harness its powers to reap all the boons, and why should it be a component of your public relations plan?

PR Storytelling Lights up the Brain

This is an assertion backed by evidence. Stories tend to light up parts of our brain which then makes us more easily influenced by the message. Stories strike some cranial cords that increase our likelihood of developing thoughts, opinions, and sentiments supportive of the storyteller’s objective. The point is that, with storytelling, you can activate more areas of the brain than statistical information or basic factual content, as your audience will immerse themselves in the subject of your story, if engaging and relatable. That becomes the starting point of attitudinal/perception/behavioural influence. The storytelling technique gives the audience the feeling of experiencing the story being told by the brand, getting them involved in the narrative and deepening their affinity for the brand. The interesting nature of stories is another quality that compels the use of storytelling.

PR Storytelling Humanises Your Brand

Storytelling gives your brand a human feel, which is a plus because it’s an established truth that people buy into people. Rather than always talking about your products and their features; tell compelling stories about the people making the product, the faces behind the brand, without losing sight of the product benefits. This gives your brand personality, builds trust, and strengthens connections with your customers. Storytelling humanises your brand as its stories are ‘human’. Consider the value which your brand offers and craft a resonating story around it. For example, instead of simply listing the features of a meeting application, build a story that markets the app as a tool that connects people, a technology that brings people together with ease, and facilitates communication. There’s a human hook to that. When creating a story, look at the big picture. Go beyond the specific product features but bear them in mind in a more holistic fashion. Your story should highlight the value of your brand in an appealing way that endears the customer. Telling the story of your brand to reflect its value in a fascinating manner. That’s PR storytelling.

PR Storytelling Makes Your Brand Stand Out

You’re most likely not the only brand in your niche. Just as you’re playing up the benefits of your products, other brands are doing the same. But each brand has a distinctive story, one that unmistakably distinguishes it from others. This story should not only be told, but also amply amplified in the media. It gives your brand a competitive edge. Your brand has a trajectory different from those of others. This story can be leveraged in public relations campaigns. It can be maximised to gain media and public attention. Just make sure the story is great and projects your brand voice. While other brands are saturating the media space with adverts of product features, you’re recounting influential narratives, underpinned by unique product benefits, which create an enduring equity for your brand. This is the edge. If sustained, you’ll always send the public and the media into a frenzy each time you launch a new product.

Creating a PR Story

When creating a PR story, think about how it will evoke emotions. Your storytelling should stimulate the desired emotion. People hardly forget how you made them feel. Let your story appeal to their emotional side- make them laugh or cry. That feeling won’t be forgotten.

Similarly, be genuine in your storytelling. Use real characters for credibility purposes. Do not fake or exaggerate the brand story- tell it as it is. People are quick to tell when a brand isn’t authentic. It’s a big minus. Sincere stories have more impact on your audience and foster more lasting connections.

Allied to the above is the need to always back up your product claims with facts and statistics in your storytelling. This reinforces your narrative and can capture the interest of your target audience. But you must be cautious about how these facts are incorporated into the story. You don’t want to bore your audience with vapidly presented data, so as not to lose them.

Think about multiplicity of channels when planning your PR storytelling campaign. It’s always more effective to employ a variety of platforms and a mix of different content formats to tell your brand story. In addition to traditional media, consider the strategic use of blogs, social media, website, etc. This increases message reach, enhances impact and beefs up visibility for your brand.

In conclusion, the pay-offs in PR storytelling are numerous and when done properly, you’ll continually enjoy earned media, perpetuate your brand voice, and create brand love. Investment in PR storytelling is highly advised.

Stanley Olisa, a Strategic Communications Consultant, wrote from Lagos.

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