What’s the story?: The Importance of Storytelling in Marketing and PR

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With so many tactics and channels for marketers and PR pros at our disposal these days, it’s easy to focus on brevity and data to get your brand in front of your target audience. Using analytics and tracking reach are effective for identifying your audience, but making an authentic connection with them takes a time-tested technique: telling your story.

Effective commercials, advertisements and news coverage resonate with audiences because viewers see themselves reflected in the (albeit brief) tale being told. A catchy tagline may stick, but trust is built through an emotional connection between the audience and the organization.

When our earned media team pitches a story to a reporter, the first thing they ask is whether we can offer an individual, a “regular Joe,” to include. An expert spokesperson can articulate an organization’s mission, explain the need for its work or products, and provide data to back it all up, but without a relatable human being to demonstrate how it all affects everyday people the message falls flat.

Likewise, in marketing, the most effective ads or commercials all tell a story, sometimes in a 30-second TV spot with little or no dialogue, sometimes with a single image on a billboard or digital display. The key is finding an experience people can relate to and linking your brand with their experiences, their memories.
A great example of this is the “Love” series from Subaru:


Yes, it’s a car and sure, they have durable engines, crash safety ratings and high resale value to tout. But the big reason for this campaign’s success was its conjuring of relatable experiences: family road trips, parents taking their children places they vacationed as a young couple, conversations held via a rear-view mirror with a child in a car seat.

Another take on the nonprofit world involves one of our clients, the Colorado Perinatal Care Quality Collaborative. Among the group’s goals is addressing implicit racial bias in maternal and infant healthcare, and they have loads of data illustrating the disparity in care minority families face.

Their chosen expert on the subject, Latoshia Roberts, knows the numbers inside and out and presents across the country on the subject. But when she does, she rarely mentions the numbers. Instead, she tells her story, of nearly hemorrhaging to death after the birth of her triplets because two (white) EMTs, dispatched to her home didn’t listen to her as she described her symptoms, a common experience for minority patients in emergency medical settings.

Though this isn’t the most uplifting example of the positive use of storytelling, Latoshia’s work resonates because of the personal connection it inspires with her audience, a strategy that works regardless of the message.

Latoshia’s explanation of her approach sums up the point of this blog, so I’ll end with it:
“You can have all the data, all the numbers in the world to show how big the issue is, but without that story, people just don’t understand that it applies to them.”

So, what’s YOUR story? If you need help connecting your company or campaign with the public, give us a call and we’ll work with you to make sure it’s told, and heard.