Why you should put story-telling at the heart of your comms strategy

Wednesday, 8th May 2024

By Jargon Group

PR pros are living the dream! Never has ‘story’ been in such demand to drive media coverage, entice web traffic, build social communities, and play the fullest part in raising positive awareness of brands in all sectors.

Sue Souter and Michael Bennett from The Jargon Group were joined by Adam Nethersole, Vice President Marketing at Kao Data, and Paula Castle, Brand and Communications Director at Leonard Curtis to chat with ProManchester members about how to create, develop, and place the right stories at the right time to grow influence, reputation, and sales.

With nothing off limits, story challenges, and the role of ChatGPT on the agenda, 50 attendees heard from and put questions to this experienced panel of storytellers to get a real-life insight into what works to deliver great brand value.

Share someone else’s story for a change and follow a TED talk or two

Adam Nethersole looks after story development for Kao Data – one of the fastest growing brands in the UK – and is in charge of marketing a £350m investment in a new state-of-the art facility in Stockport. There’s not much he does not know about story, and he is a firm believer in its benefits. From the shortening of his salespeople’s elevator pitch to using AI for content with a human touch added, he encouraged ProManchester members to share someone else’s story.

He said: “If you just talk about yourself or your company’s achievements all the time it gets boring. Our team goes out of its way to find some news, a story about someone else in our industry, and just share that. It broadens your message, widens your audience, wins new followers, and keeps things fresh.”

The other thing he advised was to watch a TED talk once a day, every day.  He added;

“Presenters on TED Talks are master storytellers. Watch and learn from the best, while strengthening your ability to wow people at dinner parties with amazing facts about the Great Barrier Reef or man’s mission to Mars.”

His final point?  “Make yourself relevant to your target customers,” he said. “We once chased a specific customer down by thinking about what they cared about, what problems we could solve for them, then wrote about it in blogs, news, and opinion pieces. Eventually, that customer came to us.”

Build a pipeline from your everyday

 Paula Castle has over 20 years’ experience working in professional services and rallying people around ‘story’ at Leonard Curtis – the restructuring and turnaround brand – by location (280+ people across 26 offices), skillset (three key pillars of service) and sector expertise, both internally and externally. She has just rebranded the business and put story up front and centre on the website and in its brand DNA.

Her first top tip was find ‘story ‘in the everyday. She said: “Look for the stuff your people are passionate about and feel comfortable with – so it’s not heavily manufactured – and build yourself a decent pipeline with their support.

“And be aware if you are targeting journalists that some stories land straightaway, some don’t, and some come back later. You need to manage expectations.”

Paula also talked about the importance of collaboration. “Work with your customer or clients, referrers, and third parties to develop great content,” she said. “Contribute to their events, newsletters, and PR pieces and invite them to add to yours. Encourage reciprocity to extend interest and reach. It strengthens relationships.”

“But,” she warned, “always get sign-off and approval first!”

Always be truthful and get creative

Michael Bennett, Divisional MD at the Jargon Group focused on getting the story right before you tell it. He commented: “This means creating a clear proposition and agreed messages from the outset, backed with proof points to ensure your story is based on facts.”

He added: “Always be truthful, if you mislead you will be found out.

He then noted: “Storytelling is intrinsically creative,” he said, “and people from all walks of life like a good story, so creativity can help you spread your story beyond your target audience. You never know who is listening, reading, watching, or clicking.”

Mining organisations for PR Gold

Former journalist Sue Souter, now Associate Director at The Jargon Group, has spent the last 35 years using story to build businesses, and summed it up by describing the role of her team, and those tasked with delivering a pipeline of content,  to think of themselves as people mining organisations for the next big tale.

She said: “Everyone in this room is sitting on PR gold – they just don’t know it yet.”

To demonstrate the fact she talked about a meeting at Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls in Wigan a few years ago when they were discussing story hooks and the MD said that they might have a milestone mint ball coming off the production line. Oh yes said the PRs – how many?  The two billionth said the MD!

Cue countdown website, the event televised live on TV,  multiple national and regional, trade and local pieces of coverage including a BBC Radio 2 mention by proud Wiganer Stuart Maconie and the mint ball itself, not eaten, preserved in Wigan Museum to celebrate Uncle Joe’s 126-year relationship with the town and its people. That’s PR Gold.”

For more information on how to put story-telling at the heart of your comms strategy please get in touch with Sue or Michael from The Jargon Group [email protected], [email protected].