In PR, Story Has to Dictate the Format

Technology and storytelling go hand-in-hand more than most people realize. When you think about it, it is the perfect marriage of art and science. As technology evolves, we’re able to complete more tasks more easily and efficiently. The impact that has on the quality of personal and professional lives — that’s where the storytelling comes in. This holds true whether you’re in the telco industry, cloud hosting, IT security or design and engineering.

Every single piece of compelling content is, at its heart, a human interest story. Why should people care what your brand has to say? How will it improve their personal lives? Their professional lives?

When B2B decision-makers are evaluating vendors, they’re looking for the one that will have the most positive impact on their company, whether that means a more efficient tool for employees or something that expands service offerings to customers. It’s our job as PR professionals to find those human interest angles that resonate most with key decision-makers and influencers. A common mistake, however, is letting our perceptions of those individuals narrow our focus right out of the gate. Now, don’t confuse “narrow focus” with “targeted.” These terms mean two very different things.

In this context, “targeted” means that you have honed in on the right messaging, content format and outlet for a particular audience and initiative. That’s a good thing. “Narrow focus,” on the other hand, means that you’ve started out by eliminating viable options without giving them due consideration and only looking at a restricted number of avenues. That’s not a good thing.


Chicken or the Egg? Story or the Format?

The sheer number of content outlets available to public relations firms and the brands they represent means that you’re never going to be short on opportunities to reach those decision-makers or influencers. The question you should be asking yourself is, “What type of content best serves the story we’re trying to tell?”. You may think that a senior product engineer won’t care about the story of a single mother going about her day-to-day routine. But if your technology can be integrated into a product he is developing, and that product will make the single mother’s life much easier, then that’s exactly the type of story you should be telling him. The recommendation is to always start by doing some research or hiring a specialist to help you with that. Decision-making is immensely helped thus.

An article or blog post that explores the struggles of a design engineer could convince a CTO that he needs to invest in new tools by focusing on how to make his employees more efficient and happier with their jobs, so the company can both improve productivity and retain top-level talent. And an infographic that illustrates the same idea with clearly identified data points could convince the engineer to bring this idea to his boss.

Ultimately, the story should dictate the format in which you tell it. If it’s best told as a video, that’s what you should do. If a bylined article or a SlideShare conveys your main points more effectively, there’s your answer. Thanks to the evolution of the Internet and social media, business decision-makers of all ages and in every industry are consuming content in all its myriad forms. If the story fits the format, go with it.

Now, a single story can be told in multiple formats and from multiple perspectives. So don’t feel like you’re limited to one or the other. In fact, it’s better to build a content ecosystem that allows you to reach a wide range of people with content that speaks to their specific needs. The point is to not limit your options from the start.


This post was first published by Brendan Reilly on March Communications’ blog PR Nonsense.