By Hanna Moore
As I was looking through this year’s sessions while preparing to attend my third National Conference this October, I was immediately excited to see one was about storytelling.
The further I get into my public relations education, the more I realize that this profession is ultimately about storytelling. Whether you are working for huge corporation, a client at an agency or a nonprofit, you want to find a way to tell your brand’s story that will resonate with your audience.
This session featured speakers Lindsey Groepper, president of BLASTmedia, and Sabrina List, vice president of marketing and communication for 500 Festival, Inc.
After both speakers explained their background in public relations and storytelling, List explained the difference in storytelling from agency and in-house perspectives. In an agency, you work with multiple clients, organizations and industries, so you get to try different things and never have the opportunity to get bored. When working in house, you work only with only one organization, but you work with different stakeholders, so you interact with people from all sides of the spectrum. For example, she said you may work with members of the board, members of a foundation, sponsors and an operation team, but you have to tailor messaging to each group and explain what public relations would mean to them and how it can help them achieve their own goals.
Next, Groepper and List explained the definition of public relations. They started off by saying what public relations is not: public relations does not equal press release. They said they believe press releases are used too frequently when there really isn’t news. Instead, they defined public relations as thought leadership, feature stories, inclusion in trend pieces, company features, real announcements and is measured with a soft return on investment.
Public relations provides credibility, brand awareness, organic search impact, web traffic potential, feedback and third party endorsements from a trusted source, typically the media.
When looking for stories, it is important to get a buy-in from stakeholders. Agree on goals and define what makes a good story. Make this a priority at events and meetings, and ask for stories. Some places to find stories include social media, story mining, CSRs, volunteers and customers.
When preparing to pitch the media, here are some questions to ask yourself:
They also offered “pitch pointers” that we could apply to our own internships and future careers:
The session ended with Groepper giving an example of a pitching success story she had. When working for a prep school in Indiana, she pitched a story about Elisabeth Davis, a 99-year-old secretary who was celebrating her 80th “workiversary” with the school. Due to the strong story behind the pitch, she gained coverage in The New York Times, People, “Inside Edition,” “Good Morning America” and the “TODAY Show.” The press she received from this story helped the school from a perception standpoint.
I left this session, which was led by two incredible PR #girlbosses, feeling inspired to apply what I had learned to my on-campus job at Flash Communications, as well as my future career in public relations.
Hanna Moore is a senior public relations major and is PRSSA Kent’s web and social media manager. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.