Business Magazine

Let Me Tell You a Story

Posted on the 01 November 2012 by Iangreen @GREENComms

All good communications – and public relations especially – is all about having a good story to tell and telling that story in a compelling manner. With that in mind here are our thoughts on the power of storytelling.
Public relations is a form of classical storytelling (think of all the great mythology) but in this case is delivered as a corporate narrative. Crucially, however, it is a non-fiction. It is the truth told in the exact same context as any other story form. Essentially, storytelling, and that includes PR, is having a point of view or theme, focusing on one person or thing (the hero) and taking your audience on that hero’s journey through trials and tribulations to arrive at some new point, but now changed. It doesn’t matter if you’re promoting a company, product, person or cause; if you tell the story with the same structure, elements, archetypes and path of all great stories, your message will be heard and acted on. And, in business, whoever tells the best story wins.
First, you need a strong beginning, which is always the hero’s ordinary, believable world.  Then you take the hero on a journey into some extraordinary world. And the end is the hero’s return to his ordinary world, but changed, very changed. Other components of an effective story are a compelling point of view or theme, such as “nothing takes the place of persistence,” or “true love never dies,” or “it’s all in the delivery.”
Every business has a story. In classic storytelling for business, I immediately think of Virgin: A young man who grows who leaves school with very little education drops out in the Sixties and becomes a hippy and sets up a record company. In 1977, a desperate Richard Branson signed a controversial band called The Sex Pistols to help revive his struggling record company, Virgin Records.
Later he launches the Virgin Record Stores. When he sells the record and stores business he moves in to air travel, financial services, media and broadband becomes a multi-billionaire and is still telling his story.
You need to think and write like a journalist. Visit your local newspaper and have a walk around the news room and have a look at the press releases they receive. When I visit old colleagues at newspapers I am amazed at the poor grammar, spelling errors and complete lack of any apparent writing skills in the press releases they show me. There is a huge disconnect between journalists and public relations practitioners because of the lack of writing skills and storytelling ability.
Stop trying to sell. Learn how to engage your audience, not manipulate it. Read some books on writing non-fiction and journalism. Try Harry Evans’ Newman’s English and Keith Waterhouse’s Daily Mirror Style. And read newspapers – I am stunned at how many PR professionals are not interested in the news. Read newspapers and you will learn how to write a story.

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