Good Storytelling Needs Flexible Branches
PR consultants know that when you work with clients to craft a story for their brand, you can often be met with a degree of single-mindedness. This is understandable. Whether your client is a marketing manager on a big FMCG brand or a small company start up, they must have a clearly defined idea of what their proposition stands for – and good marketing practice tells us all to police key messages rabidly. But it is the job of the PR consultant to tease out the newsworthy elements from a client’s story and craft a series of tales that we know will hook media by giving them the elements that they will find irresistible…and these may not always match exactly with the closely held list of key messages!
I was explaining to someone unfamiliar with PR what I actually do when I go in to take a brief from a new client. It feels increasingly like a diagnosis session that your GP might conduct. Much of what I do is listening to everything a client tells me. Some of it will be relevant, much of it won’t be – and somewhere amongst the interesting tales of insight, passion, testing, successes, failures and vision, you will find the acorn from which your story will grow. Like the tree that evolves, your story has to have several strong branches and display a little flexibility! Most importantly don’t automatically lock onto ONE story with your client – based on their key objective and told in the way they want to tell it. This approach just won’t cut it with the spectrum of media you are aiming to feed.
I recently ran a campaign for a client, a children’s oral health company. Mine was a broad awareness brief and I’d got a good story to tell – in essence there is no joined up messaging from the spectrum of health professionals on when a baby should start an oral care routine and first go to the dentist. It’s an interesting angle, worth a journalist investigating – and I had the passion and insight of my client to help create an engaging story. But with the KPIs looking like broad scale coverage, I pondered how I could take that to each type of media. Success came with tailoring the story and the influencer and case study choices for each media type to reach broadcast (Sky News Sunrise and ITV News with The Singing Dentist), national newspapers with an authentic and engaging case study story (Daily Express and Express.co.uk) and trade press with an oral health professor (Dentistry.co.uk & GDPUK.co.uk). Putting into practise the idea of a campaign having a core trunk and the stories being the branches helped me create distinct approaches for each media. In good PR, one size definitely does not fit all!