In regard to storytelling, English author Henry Green said, “The more you leave out, the more you highlight what you leave in.” This is true in writing and public relations; We have many stories to tell about our companies at any given time, but it’s in the selection and refinement of key stories (including what we choose to omit) that we truly strategize. For this reason, storytelling will always be important.
This week, we’re revisiting the concept of storytelling. Because whatever you choose to call it, turning an abstract idea into a tale humans can connect with (whether you’re selling shoes, software, or a service), and being able to tell effective, relevant stories is a skill that will never go out of style.
To identify interesting stories for media outreach and content creation, one must feel inspired! Leta Soza, our Director of PR Engineering & Ops, shares five of her content crushes, all of which exhibit stellar digital storytelling.
Andrew Carpenter, an AirPR Manager of PR Intelligence, makes a case for why storytelling should permeate every part of a business, not just PR and marketing (where storytelling most often begins).
Subtle Shots of Storytelling Leta’s back, talking about small-yet-powerful storytelling opportunities. Hear how a small, southern design firm turned their “About” page into a compelling collage of its employees possessions, plus why it was such a smart move.
One of the many hats a PR Engineer wears is that of storytelling. But between juggling data, gathering insights, managing relationships, and more, how are busy PR pros supposed to find time to stay both inspired and up to date on the latest and greatest in industry trends that inform compelling storytelling?
Let me make this easy on you! Here, I’ve gathered up a few of the sites and blogs that keep me sharp and feeling inspired so that all you have to do is sign up for their newsletters or follow them on social media to reap the rewards. You may not have time to read every article these sites send out, but you’ll be doing great if what you do consume gives you one or two takeaways a week that can positively inform your work.
Without further ado, I bring you 5 sites that will sharpen your storytelling skills.
This blog is all about how to streamline your content creation, measure success, and storytell in a way that’s both authentic and branded. From how to spice up bland text to “The 5 Things Every (Great) Marketing Story Needs,” Copyblogger shares the ins and outs of words that work. The best part? The content is stripped dry of overused jargon. It’s straight-forward, quality content about well…content!
Created by writer Maria Popova this ad-free online digest is a delightful mix of thought-provoking essays, reflective works, and more. Read an article about the dynamics of workplace friendships (accompanied by storybook illustrations), or a poetic debate about science and art (sprinkled with stacks of inspiring pull-quotes). This online magazine and its newsletter are a feast for any content creator or creative type looking to redefine how they talk about or present a subject. It’s also the best way to start your Sunday, in my opinion.
Not only will Percolate’s blog keep you on your toes when it comes to what’s happening in the content strategy world, but it will also keep your marketing skills sharp too (a benefit to all of those multi-hat wearers out there). Industry trend-laden articles about “Why Content Creation Will Make or Break Brands in 2016” to posts about the qualities SaaS companies need to succeed are examples of what you can expect from Percolate’s continually pumping blog. Regardless of the topic, the content is always well-researched and journalistically written.
If anyone “gets” content marketing, it’s the Influence & Co. team. Their Knowledge Bank is stuffed with useful, thought provoking, actionable content written specifically for the modern marketer. From posts on how to shrink your sales cycle with killer content to a library chock full of not to be missed whitepapers, Influence & Co. is a shining example of how being entertaining, engaging and educational really is the key to content success.
Think of cartoonist/author Hugh MacLeod’s blog as a happy place for professionals who both appreciate art and are seeking the occasional motivational nudge. Sign up for Gapingvoid’s newsletters for a daily dose of kooky cartoons accompanied by inspiring words — artwork that MacLeod describes as “Motivational art for smart people.” This content has a mission, practical purpose, and people are genuinely delighted by it. Can you ask for anything more?
What’s your go-to industry blog or source for inspiration? Tell me if you love any of the above too, plus why you do! Tweet-tweet. → @AirPR
We know, we know…sequels so rarely live up to the hype of originals, but I can assure you this part duex is guaranteed to deliver as much punch and pizzazz as what came before.
A few weeks ago my colleague and engineering partner-in-crime, Frank Jing, knocked it out of the park with his succinct and astute overview of Big Data and its role in PR (Part 1).
Not only did he touch on what Big Data is and why PR peeps should care about it, he also provided insights into how to think about this phenomenon and three reasons to embrace Big Data now.
As someone who lives and breathes Big Data on a daily basis (no seriously, I’m currently surrounded), I want to take one step further and provide some actionable ways you can harness the power of Big Data.
Once you are fixed on the Big Data idea and nailed all the basics, it’s time to identify the challenges or problems you wish to solve and how best to solve them.
Here are 7 of my suggestions:
1. List all your current frustrations plaguing your work. There’s a good chance Big Data can solve quite a few!
2. Get familiar with the most common terminologies of Big Data. Look up things like predictive modeling, natural language processing, data mining, databases, etc. Treat these words like medical jargons. You don’t have to know them inside and out, but it’s better to know *of* them when your doctor err…engineer…starts using them.
3. Make it a point to regularly talk with your tech people, but be patient. The language barrier may be high at first, and the same word can (and often does) mean different things in different circumstances, but good data people will be able to translate. Use their expertise to your advantage!
4. Decide if your Big Data strategy will be DIY or if outside help is required. Big Data means big decisions. The expenses of buying equipment, managing databases, integrating with existing systems, and doing automated analysis can be significant up front. Luckily, there are more and more companies providing customized solutions for Big Data, but it’s worth considering if you have the resources in house to get you up and running in the interim.
5. Start collecting data NOW! This is an “act first, ask questions later” kind of mindset. Yes, yes, it is crucial to develop a robust strategy for collecting, structuring, and storing data. But big data is an iterative process that begins with collecting data. It’ll be much easier to refine your collection and storage strategy as you go. Besides, storage is cheap and you can always discard what you don’t need.
6. Figure out what your data is telling you. Obviously, having the data is only half the story. Deriving insights and weaving those into your storytelling is also paramount. I suggest sitting with a data-minded individual and talking through your hypotheses. Starting with postulations can often be the easiest jumping off point to affirm or debunk your subjective hunches.
7. Keep up with what’s happening in the advancement of technology. The tides change fast, so be sure you know how to surf ‘em. Pick 1-2 tech focused publications and make it a point to do a monthly or bi-weekly deep dive into their coverage so you stay in the know.
Perhaps most importantly, believe in the power of data-driven decisions. It won’t replace experience and it’s no substitute for human capital or emotional intelligence, but like a great sequel, it can deliver unique insights and give you a fresh new perspective.
In the past decade, perhaps the biggest shift in Internet technology has been the rise of video content. From commercially produced material to the explosion of self-directed content via smartphones, video is everywhere.
While text content will always have a place, stats show that more and more traffic volume is driven by video content. The time is now to embrace video as your content driver, and here are five big reasons why.
1. It creates a unique emotional connection.
Video offers an immediacy that can translate emotionally unlike any other medium. It’s the reason why a well-made, 30-second commercial can nearly bring someone to tears or inspire them toward action. The images, audio and narrative all become a compelling and engaging experience that speaks to the core of who we are as human beings.
As the web is trending towards a denser volume of video-based traffic, both content creators and content-platform managers must realize the unique opportunity they have to connect with their audiences through video — and that connection can build the foundation of brand loyalty and long-term appeal.
For a great example, check out Saucony’s “Find Your Strong“ video, which was used to launch a multi-channel campaign that pushed the running shoe company ahead of the pack.
2. You can repurpose content.
From a practical perspective, video offers unique repurposing abilities that aren’t available in other media. Single images can be used for promotion. Behind-the-scenes footage can be distributed as bonus content to further engage the audience. The source material can be edited into promotional clips or other spin-off material for marketing purposes.
Short-form video platforms such as Vine can utilize micro-clips to promote content on a grassroots social-media level. Video is a flexible medium, and smartly combining creative flexibility with marketing muscle can repurpose one solid piece of content into endless offshoots.
3. Video can enhance branding and marketing efforts.
Because video is such a compelling medium, it can both be the driver and centerpiece of branding efforts. Using a comprehensive and holistic approach, video can support a wide range of marketing initiatives. This stems from the storytelling/narrative capabilities of video via images, text, audio and identity. A video is capable of bringing all of these elements together and driving it forward into other marketing initiatives.
“Engagement is central to our success,” says Kaliel Roberts, senior vice president of product and technology at Discovery Communications, home to Discovery Digital Networks. “A key metric we evaluate across platforms is video views per session, which is an important indicator of engagement, and a great way to extend the value of our content.”
4. Its embedding capabilities.
Today, embedding videos is a standard feature that allows even the technophobic to propagate relevant content. This creates an organic syndication process for content, further spreading to blogs, social media profiles and websites.
Thus, the goal for content creators thus becomes two-fold: First, create high-quality content, then engage viewers through all possible channels to push syndication forward, hopefully to a point where it goes viral and takes on a life of its own.
5. Video has longer user-engagement periods.
The availability of video has created a cluttered ecosystem — it can be difficult to cut through the noise, and discovering desired content can leave viewers frustrated. In fact, according to a study cited by CNN, consumers give up on video content if it doesn’t load in two seconds.
Alternately, when a user has a clear path to appealing videos, this creates a longer user-engagement period, which is the top priority for any content platform. This means that platform managers must invest in both quality content providers and technology that enables accurate algorithm-selected choices to keep users engaged in order to turn a casual user into a brand loyalist.
Staying ahead of the video curve.
The numbers are pulling toward video and the benefits for both content creators and platforms are clearly there. The goal for both parties is then to project ahead of the curve and focus on what drives engagement. While creating high-quality, compelling video content is often a big financial as well as human-capital investment, if done well it can literally catapult a campaign or initiative forward unlike any other medium.
By prioritizing quality over quantity, the long-term dividends will include a better reputation, stronger loyalty and more monetization opportunities.
I’m not sure when it began, but it seems that “Big Data” is becoming THE catch phrase in every business meeting. The emphasis of each Big Data conversation may be different: it may be making sure no data is lost, or the privacy and security concerns of using the cloud, or the automation of analytical reporting. But everybody seems to acknowledge that the era of Big Data is upon us.
So, what is Big Data? And why should we care?
In a nutshell, Big Data involves capturing, integrating, organizing, analyzing and acting on as much information as possible. It provides the foundation for descriptive information via monitoring and reporting and it enables predictive analysis using statistical tools.
To get a quick understanding, we don’t have to go any further than looking our daily life.
Simply put, Data is the information all around us. We check our smartphones for news and social updates, we read and write emails, we buy products from online stores, we research good restaurants for dinner, we track our health and diet, we search for random tidbits online. The list is infinitely long, but you get my point: we are consuming information all the time, and in the process, also transmitting information about ourselves. It has never been easier to access information (thanks to the Internet), and to create information whether we intend to or not (thanks to, again, Internet).
So what about the Big part?
What makes it Big as opposed to Wide or Robust or Infinite? Well, this is a little more complex…but we will start with the “Four V’s”: Volume, Velocity, Variety, and Veracity.
Information is exploding. Our poor brain is simply not trained to comprehend the extremely large Volume of data, the extremely high Velocity of data generation, the extremely wide Variety of data, and, to add salt to wound, the extremely uncertain Veracity of data we obtain.
Google is estimated to be storing 15,000 Petabytes of data, and processing 100 Petabytes more every day. That’s 15,000,000,000,000 Gigabytes in Volume, and 100,000,000,000 Gigabytes per day in Velocity. To put it in perspective, the largest storage option on an iPhone is 128 Gigabytes.
Variety is easy to understand, because you can pretty much “Google” everything. As for Veracity, just do a quick search for “is coffee good for you”, read all the opinions of self-proclaimed experts, and enjoy the confusion. It is hopeless to try to make sense of everything all by ourselves, and that’s why we rely on services and apps to create order out of chaos.
How is Big Data affecting (PR) business as usual?
PR, perhaps more than any other industry, needs to embrace Big Data wholeheartedly in order to defend its place as a key business driver. Because information (aka data) is at the core of any good PR strategy or campaign, PR pros are generally experts in monitoring and influencing public opinion. But the job is getting harder every day. We can no longer hope to assess public opinion in the traditional way because everybody has at least fifty things to say and they are posting all of them online. And whether we want to accept it or not, this swath of information affects audiences’ perception about a company in addition to buying decisions.
There is also no guarantee that a carefully crafted magazine article will be more impactful than a random customer’s tweet gone viral. PR pros not equipped with Big Data are asked to manage the relationship with a fast changing public, but the traditional way of processing information is failing them.
And they are not alone in facing the Big Data challenge. Everybody is struggling. There is an unfortunate gap between amazing technological innovation and everyday usage by us mere mortals. Tech insiders tend to throw out jargon like “distributed database”, “neural network” and “object oriented programing”, but all the jargon in the world won’t answer the question “which channel is the best to reach the broadest audience about a specific branding message?”
But why should PR pros embrace Big Data? Well, there are plenty of reasons but let’s start here:
#1 – Building a quantitative foundation
Big Data can help PR, a primarily qualitative industry, to lay a quantitative foundation. In other words: it empowers PR pros to make more informed decisions about what’s working, what’s not working, and ultimately shows how PR is connected to business goals.
We can now utilize devices to monitor the Internet and capture every single piece of content published online. While at first glance, it seems like a humongous, messy pile, we can also be confident that we are collecting more than doing it by hand. Then, we can filter data by the topics we are interested in. Services such as Google Analytics and Omniture help us track how many people read each piece; then solutions like ours (AirPR Analyst) tell who are the most influential authors in a particular field, or what messages are resonating during a particular time frame. Imagine a world in which you use data to enhance storytelling, hence reaching more relevant audiences; in turn, this will get you closer to reaching your business goals.
#2 – Connecting to your audience
Big Data provides a detailed picture of the audience. Everyone who engages in online activity leaves a digital footprint. We can look at the collection of footprints to find out what our target audience likes or doesn’t like. Fortunately, the marketing industry has already made significant progress in this field, and PR (aka PRTech) can build on this technology.
There is also a surprising amount of insight that can be culled from taking a closer look at existing customers’ info. Imagine how easy it would be to choose your angle of messaging when you know your most valuable customers are senior business people in the Pacific Northwest who tend to listen to public radio on their way into work.
#3 – Estimating the actual versus perceived impact
Big Data helps to estimate the impact of actions. Correlation between an action and an outcome can be calculated when enough data is collected. This is where we actually like the BIG part of Big Data. Basic statistics principles tell us the more data we collect, the more accurate our estimation. And the more variety we have in our data collection, the more aspects we can use to measure the impact.
Gone are the days when number of placements is the only thing PR pros can confidently quantify regarding their contribution. If Big Data analysis tells you that 5% of this quarter’s revenue growth can be attributed to a series of PR efforts you partnered with a specific publication, yet it could have been 6% had you chosen another partner, everybody will be more excited about next quarter.
Big Data and its role in the future of PR
Of course, Big Data is no crystal ball. It uses historical data to provide you with useful information. The underlying assumption is the world will pretty much behave the same in the near future. It is a quite reasonable assumption, but not always correct (think housing prices in 2008). Big Data gives the best quantification of all the ingredients; the art is how to use the newfound knowledge to create the tastiest and healthiest meal. This is where the real genius in every PR pro shines.
Obviously, the prediction won’t be 100% accurate, but it will systematically provide you a competitive information edge because you can see one step further. Furthermore, once you see the analysis (results), you can plan and optimize your efforts to take the best actions and maximize the benefit.
Yes, we can finally put a number behind our gut feelings!
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.
I’ve been thinking a lot about storytelling and the strength of tiny tales. Small stories are kind of like taking a shot of [insert your preferred booze type here]. It may be little, but man can it pack a punch!
In business, we tend to turn our attention to BIG stories: product launches, rebranding strategies, funding announcements. But what about all the other opportunities we have to communicate our narrative that go unsung?
If every touch point is an opportunity to tell our story, why should conventional components lack the creativity and character that go into product launches? Take this rock star example from Kentucky-based design and branding firm, Cornett.
Here in Silicon Valley it’s easy to get caught up in the tech-hype-vortex-bubble. This 4 sided beast includes everything from ad nauseum discussions about pedigree and educational background to a belief system which often rewards high potential above high performance.
Throw in a media environment which reinforces these messages, and what we are left with is a somewhat obsessive compulsive tendency to fixate on publications that offer us a stamp of approval but do little in terms of reaching our core audience, or customer for that matter.
In other words…
Is TechCrunch really the right outlet to announce your launch? Or would you be better off seeding the story to five influential bloggers on various niche outlets to get the buzz going about your brand?
The truth is, as an emerging startup, sometimes tech or business press won’t be interested in your story until you have <insert random number> of customers, <insert random $ number> in sales, or <insert sexy name> as your co-founder.
Blech. Blah. And often frustrating.
The other truth? As ego-fulfilling and investor-placating as those outlets may be, they may not be your best bet in terms of getting in front of actual paying, engaged customers. Furthermore, conversations – real conversations – don’t necessarily happen on outlets whose existence is to break news and report on fast moving trends.
As a former reporter for VentureBeat, Chikodi Chima knows a thing or two about this client-PR-media conundrum, and he has some interesting insights into a concept he calls “breadcrumbs.”
Read on. And start telling better stories to those who matter most.
Using Breadcrumbs to Tell Better Stories
By: Chikodi Chima, Founder of Moonshot
We live in an attention economy where getting a slice of someone’s attention is a precious resource. The right media exposure can flood you with new customers, help your startup close an investment round, or nab a cofounder coveted invites to speak at conferences.
But with so much riding on a good story, everyone who isn’t Apple, Google or Facebook competes for scraps of top-tier media attention. And while an above-the-fold writeup that hits Techmeme can do wonders, chasing “vanity media” can be a huge drain on resources. At VentureBeat I wrote three stories per week that came from pitches. Furthermore, early adopters and gadget junkies may read every shred of news in the tech press, but how many of them become customers? Not enough.
Stop sweating the tech press and use breadcrumbs to get your message directly to the people who need it most.
PR, like any industry, is rife with experts throwing around definitions and best practices about how to do it, when to do it, and what success looks like.
It’s easy to get caught up in the complexities; killing ourselves as we attempt to jump on the next bandwagon as the pundit of the day makes proclamations like:
“Traditional media is dying.”
“News doesn’t matter only opinions matter.”
“Social media is the most important component of PR.”
And my personal favorite: “The press release is dead.”
Well, no, you idiot, it’s not dead. It’s just taken on a different form, and will continue to evolve.
PR today is not like the PR of yesteryear. But at the same time…it is. While the modes and distribution methods have certainly changed, how we should think about PR – meaning, the ultimate goals – have not changed.
In 1985, Steve Jobs famously said:
“Good PR educates people; that’s all it is. You can’t con people in this business. The products speak for themselves.”
This still holds true today, and is even more important as a barrage of startups attempt to push crappy, boring, untested products into the marketplace. It’s a simple statement, one often forgotten as we get caught up in the whiplash of a rapidly changing media landscape.
Well, as I’m sure Dave McClure would say: “Calm the fuck down already.”
What I know he would say about PR (because I asked him last week) is this: “PR is about telling good stories, differentiated stories.” (more…)