All marketers hear about storytelling on a daily basis. On the contrary, PR is too often described as an old-fashion discipline, outdated by the new digital trends. But actually, storytelling is the very essence of PR.
Why is storytelling all the rage in PR today? Because it works. Nothing engages clients and audiences like storytelling and its because of the way we are wired as human beings.
Every story is a mini-drama. It creates empathy for its characters, tension and anticipation while they resolve their issues, and a payoff in which their problems are solved. The reader walks away inspired, feeling hopeful, and thinking, “yes, I could do with some of the same.”
The best stories have a hero, heroine or protagonist. The hero has a need, aspiration or threat to overcome. This challenge creates tension not only in the hero but also the reader who wants to know how they achieve their goal.
The reader finds themselves in the shoes of the hero and almost lives the experience with them creating a relationship and empathy for the hero. The actions taken to achieve the aspiration or overcome the threat are experienced by the reader as if they were their own.
The insights gleaned by the hero are learned by the reader as if they were their realizations. The satisfaction experienced by the hero when goals are achieved are mirrored in the reader leaving a sense of optimism and hope, the very thing they need to face their own challenges.
By storytelling, your company’s story connects you to your customers and investors and that is the aim of PR, to create a relationship of mutual understanding, empathy between you and your audiences. Such mutuality of understanding translates into trust, loyalty and purchase decisions. Storytelling makes your customers your allies.
To understand better what Public Relations involves, take a look at our article explaining what PR is.
The science of cognition and perception backs up how storytelling works. Research has shown that storytelling activates far more parts of the brain than those activated when mere facts are being presented, say, as bullet points. Bullet points activate only the language centres of the brain that ascribe meaning to words. But when a narrative with emotion is shared, the listener activates all the parts of the brain which are required to interpret the emotions and actions told in the story.
The whole brain lights up, creating total engagement with the storyteller. Moreover, researchers At Yale University found that the human brain is constantly looking to link together chains of events in a meaningful way to make sense of them. That process not only makes them remember better but also gets them to mirror and empathize with the feelings of the person sharing those narratives.
Storytelling works best when the hero is an individual or persona that the reader can relate to. It could be a customer, an employer or the founder of your business, in other words, a real person, not an abstract corporate entity. A single mum juggling a busy life, a founder who has invested all they have in their business and the risks they’ve taken, an employee who is passionate about their product and wants clients to understand what it can do for them.
People instantly recognize the strengths, threats to and weaknesses of such subjects and are ready to step into their shoes as their story unfolds. How you came to found your business, why you did it, how you grew your business against the competition, why you designed new attributes into your product, how you changed your value proposition, all are compelling tales that suck in your audience and get them to think and feel with you. Your success and victory are experienced by them as their victory and inspires them to be hopeful and even emulate your success in their personal lives or businesses.
So actually, an inspiring story is newsworthy for journalists as one of their main goals is to share stories that are helpful or informative for their readers.
Feel free to read our article on what is newsworthy in the digital era of you'd like other ideas to reinforce your PR.
Finally, storytelling works best when the narrative is simple, non-complex and straightforward, giving only the facts and details that are germane to the outcome. Overdoing detail engages parts of the brain that aren’t necessary and loses the focus of the story and the listener’s empathy.
Now you see why storytelling is so big in PR right now. Whether via blog posts, tweets, Facebook posts or even visually like Instagram you create empathy with your audiences and take them along with you. And that is the aim of great PR.
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Written by: Tet Kofi
Tet is the JournoLink ambassador, having a background in broadcast journalism lends him well to the ambassadorial role. Tet can still be heard on the radio and seen tweeting on Twitter.