Published on September 17, 2015
When it comes to influential forces, there are few as powerful as storytelling. While many equate storytelling with entertainment (e.g. movies, television, novels, etc.), the concept of compelling storytelling is now front and center in nearly every business conversation. In fact, it was a major theme during this year’s GrowthBeat conference.
The business of storytelling exists (or should exist) in every organization. Storytelling conveys the heart and soul of a brand and is key to customer attraction and retention.
Typically, storytelling begins with PR and/or Marketing as they use their knowledge of target audiences and industry landscapes to develop key narratives. These stories then get told over and over again by Sales.
Having had the unique experience of working in both PR and Sales, I wanted to take an opportunity to demonstrate three ways storytelling can build a bridge between PR and Sales and allow these two often disparate business functions to work together in harmony.
1. Information Surprise & Delight
The days of putting a story “out there” and letting the rest take care of itself is no longer an option. With droves of content being created, there is now an emphasis on making sure your story stands out and encourages the reader to learn more.
During his breakout panel at GrowthBeat, Mark Fiske, VP of Channel Marketing at Ancestory.com, talked about how to make the moment a prospect discovers information from or about your brand a magical one. His advice: Stop talking about yourself. Instead, focus on touting the success of your customers or offer up applicable tips that can be utilized immediately.
In order to have the most impact, the customer needs to feel engaged from the instant they learn how your product or service can add value. One of the ways Sales can ensure this is engagement is by leveraging and repackaging the stories PR has created. Those interviews featuring your CEO are actually great ammo for your Sales team as they seek to demonstrate your company’s education prowess and expertise to prospects.
2. Strategic Audience Targeting
It may seem obvious, but telling your story to someone whose interest is already piqued makes it much easier to engage them. Kathy Savitt, CMO of Yahoo, found a way to excite millions of people by reigniting the cancelled NBC show, Community, as one of Yahoo’s original program series.
Instead of recreating something from scratch, Yahoo easily reengaged millions of existing fans through strategic story placements when it announced the partnership. By exciting an already loyal audience, Yahoo was able to tap into an engaged market segment and use their access to sell new types of ads which included a campaign featuring Lexus.
Capitalizing on an audience that already exists isn’t always possible, but it does drive home the importance of Sales understanding why PR publishes stories on certain channels and the audience demographics of those publications. Alignment on audience segments allows Sales to choose the narratives most compelling for the person they are speaking to.
3. Non-Financial Motives
A lot of times businesses engage in activities where revenue isn’t the number one priority. The interesting thing is how often these non-financially motivated actions actually result in financial gain.
A phenomenal example from GrowthBeat was when Joe Megibow, Chief Digital Officer at American Eagle Outfitter, explained that AEO often sees its music channels drive more people back to the store and the app than content on other, more traditional channels.
The creation of the music channel by the AEO PR team was initially thought of as a way to give customers the opportunity to engage with their brand, but what it actually created was an additional revenue stream for Sales to engage with customers.
As someone who loves a good story, I hope these example serve to show that great stories in business simply don’t start and stop. The most powerful and often most interesting narratives are propagated by every part of the organization and allow for every department to contribute to a brand’s success.