The Art of Storytelling

March 21st, 2011
by Industry Expert

Communicators need to shift from providing information to showing outcomes in their writing. This was one of the points at a recent Washington Women in Public Relations (WWPR) professional development lunch to help PR professionals tell their organization’s stories effectively.  

Flickr Image: Jill Clardy

Flickr Image: Jill Clardy

Panelists Cindy Atlee, partner, The Storybranding Group; Nancy Belmont, CEO, Belmont Inc.;  Danny Harris, founder, People’s District, and moderator Donna Savarese, director of communications, Innovative Solutions Group revealed ways to find and craft an effective story. Atlee lead the panel by asking attendees to choose a character from a list (i.e. every person, lover, jester, caregiver, hero, etc.) they felt most like that day and then tell us why. The panelists agreed that offering role names can often encourage people to open-up about their emotions toward a product, place or organization, and you can then find the emotion behind the story.

Harris says stories can have a magical construction, where you don’t realize there is a call to action. He reminded the group every good story has three parts:

  1. Challenge
  2. Struggle
  3. Resolution

Belmont encourages creating and finding deeper connections with your audience. She added we should look for the “like.” The more detail you can get into the story, the likelihood you will find something in common with your audience and the more likely they will like your story. She used the example of her client the U.S. Army. They look to tell the story of the everyday soldier, who we all like, not the war.

Not all organization’s stories seem interesting, so Savarese says she uses case studies to tell her organization’s stories. She always looks to give the resolution meaning to everyday people. She encouraged adding visuals, pictures and video, to help pull the reader into the story.

(In a recent Fresh Ideas post, my BurrellesLuce colleague Tressa Robbins addressed the issue of overloading your press release with too much information, and gave some great tips for crafting a story-based release.)

The panel also encouraged communicators to look outside the communications department, when looking for an organization’s story. Everyone should be involved and recommended several books on effective story telling:

How have you used storytelling to promote your organization or client? What were the challenges? Do you have any advice for BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas readers?

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3 Responses to “The Art of Storytelling”

  1. [...] Last week, I attended a Washington Women In PR panel on “The Art of Storytelling.” WWPR’s Past President Debbie Friez has a great recap on the BurellesLuce blog. [...]

  2. [...] Storytelling is something we've used as human beings since our earliest days. Through oral tradition, art, and eventually written language, we're able to make sense of the world around us and convey information in a way that sticks. Think about the kinds of conversations you have in the office on Monday morning when everyone shares how their weekend went. Those kinds of stories are easy to remember. They're also great to share if you find something interesting in them. But what makes you want to share them in the first place? What is it that make storytelling so powerful? [...]

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