Storytelling intrigues me.
Man has loved to tell–and hear–stories from our earliest days, gathered together over a flickering fire as night falls… “Storytelling is one of the many things that define and bind our humanity,” according to this article on the history of storytelling.
I believe it.
It’s a skill worth learning and something we can truly have fun with, if we occasionally let our imaginations out to play. Storytelling is hard until we’ve practiced enough to make it easier.
You’d think public relations pros and journalists would have a natural talent for storytelling.
We like to tell ourselves we do, maybe, but the truth is that most of us just don’t do a great job at it. We’ve been taught to write in a straightforward, factual manner, “telling the news” and leaving the actual story up to the media. We forget to set that tendency aside and it creeps into the content we create.
— Carrie Morgan (@morgancarrie) April 7, 2016
Adding to the challenge, many of us struggle with our writing, realizing it’s a weak spot, and have limited resources to pursue alternative non-written forms available to tell our stories.
Now clients want to step up their content marketing, brand journalism, blogging, podcasting, videos and other forms of content creation that stretch our talents in new directions, and it’s falling under the public relations umbrella.
It’s terrifying, it’s fantastic and it’s difficult.
We’ve already gone from juggling six or seven hats to juggling a hundred, and storytelling skills don’t come easy. Is this something that’s important?
Storytelling is ABSOLUTELY one of the most valuable skills to absorb, in my opinion. The ability to tell a great story trickles down into everything else we do. Like ketchup, ranch or chocolate -there’s almost nothing it can’t improve.
Whether it’s a single clever sentence to set the stage and flip on the spotlight, or something longer, storytelling creates a valuable connection. It doesn’t have to be a tall tale with multiple characters and a complex plot worthy of Stephen King’s approval – it can be something small, like highly descriptive word choices, analogies or a narrative voice instead of third-person. How dominant the story becomes in your piece of content is completely up to you.
Storytelling skills also set you apart from many others in our industry who have limited themselves to a traditional media relations focus.
Adding a storytelling flavor to what we create is fantastic—the sign of a truly talented PR pro.
Free Storytelling Resources to Improve Your Storytelling Skills
There are a thousand ways to tell a story.
Here’s a quick recap of a few that were shared:
- The Believe Me, The Storytelling Manifesto by Michael Margolis (GetStoried.com)
- The Business of Story podcast by Park Howell (a Phoenix resident, like myself)
- Storytelling with Data and the StoryHow blog
- Reading fiction (learn by osmosis!)
- Not free: Story Proof (book)
- Write more – the #1 way to improve is through practice.
- WordPress, Mention or Wix – free blogging platforms
- LinkedIn long-form posts – blogging ideal for personal branding
- Blab or Periscope live-streaming apps for Twitter, or Facebook live-streaming video
- WriteRoom, Editorial and Byline – simple drafting software that removes distractions
— Mark DelSasso (@videoarch) April 7, 2016
I have one more idea to throw in the pot today… Looking at examples of what other’s do right is always a great way to learn. Here are some great examples.
The “Taylor vs Treadmill” video (below) is actually what stimulated this post today.
Three Stellar Examples of Storytelling
Written and visual storytelling are both powerful – and a combination of both is even better.
I really love how corporate storytelling is incorporated into this Airbnb Belong Anywhere campaign – kudos to whomever created it for them. It’s a nice approach. It also integrates visual with the written very nicely.
— Carrie Morgan (@morgancarrie) April 7, 2016
EXAMPLES TWO & THREE:
In some ways, PR professionals can learn storytelling skills from great commercials. They tell a story in a 30- or 60-second spot in a way that connects to a specific brand message, something we must also do.
Examples two and three are very well done. Promotion is fairly mild, relying on the story to sell their point with humor and intelligence. They also connect nicely to a specific, single sentence brand message in a way that is powerful, memorable and shareable.
Do you have a storytelling tool or tactic to share? Click one of the social icons below and let’s chat about it.
(Originally published April 6, 2016; last updated Sept. 21, 2019)