Is Public Relations Just Good Old Fashion Storytelling?

The traditional understanding of public relations involves an agency such as Brady Media Group learning about a client’s unique services or goods, researching journalists who have a history or assignment of writing or producing stories about this subject matter and then pitching them on their consideration of a story on this worthwhile company. In a perfect world, the resulting story is a glowing editorial feature about the client’s goods and, on cue, cash registers ring. It was a simple process. Not easy, but simple.

That’s the way PR worked in the past, but things change. This traditional approach worked well until the number of journalist dwindled due to sagging revenue in every media property. Now, those few writers and producers who are left in the newsrooms are forced to do the work of 5 or 10 of their long gone colleagues.

They don’t have a spare minute to hear pitches on the latest and greatest products or services and even if they did, the decreased page counts of every newspaper, magazine and even websites, coupled with less time devoted to broadcast news means that there is very little room for anything but the usual front page mayhem.

This is forcing public relations and corporate communications agencies to rethink how they spread the word about their clients. This current state of affairs is encouraging those of us who still enjoy helping clients sell their products by means of earned media to learn some new storytelling skills and some new media strategies.

Storytelling as a Part of the Selling Process

One of my favorite blogs is “PsyBlog” and it was founded by researcher Jeremy Dean. He has some interesting insights about the effectiveness of telling “stories” in the selling process.

He notes, “Once inside the story, we are less likely to notice things which don’t match up with our everyday experience. For example, an inspirational Hollywood movie with a “can-do” spirit might convince us that we can tackle any problem, despite what we know about how the real world works. Also, when concentrating on a story, people are less aware that they are subject to a persuasion attempt: The (selling) message gets in under the radar.”

Dean continued, “Our brains have a tendency to be mostly concerned with enjoying the story and absorbing the message. Stories can be incorporated effectively in this way by utilizing them in your content marketing efforts, especially if you use case studies and interviews to tell your tales and do your selling for you.”

Using the Client’s Owned Media for the Stories

The other part of the new strategy for public relations involves finding a place where potential customers can hear/see/read these captivating stories. This involves using a combination of the old tactic of pitching the working media on the merits of the story. It also involves helping the client to either build new or take advantage of their existing “owned media” – their website, their regularly scheduled outbound newsletters, their company blogs, their social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter and Pinterest, podcasts, even their web-based television channels.

Given the huge shift in media consumption habits, where YouTube has a higher viewership than network television, this client-owned media is extremely valuable real estate. Using it appropriately and effectively requires that the PR agency, which is now more of a content development agency, find people (usually ex-journalists and advertising folks) who understand the media and can spin a compelling story which takes advantage of specific strengths of this new media.

What’s the Best Media Strategy?

Brady Media Group was founded by former journalists, writers, videographers, photographers and media specialists who are at their core great storytellers. While the traditional approach of pitching journalists on the merits of our clients’ stories is still very much a part of the arsenal of the company, content marketing and all that this entails is becoming more and more important in helping these companies effectively communicate their selling message to potential customers.

Whether this communications effort involves social networks, blogs, websites or network television news directors will depend on the objectives and the message of companies that ask our help. As with many other aspects of our daily lives, the media landscape has been fractionalized and companies that fail to take advantage of this do so at their own peril.