When talking about the art of communicating and storytelling, whether it's oral, aural, visual or in words (stay with me here, I am trying to correlate this with PR), the creative process is often lost during the template-driven process of writing a press release. I touched on this in my last column: some of you argued that the press release is not dead. Perhaps, or perhaps it is being "re-tooled" is more accurate. Any "fill-in-the-blanks-here" method is not conducive to creative thinking -- and that's 50% (or more) of what we're supposed to do at a PR firm. It's not just tactics, you know.
Here's one example of (and thanks goes to Constantine Hoffman's blog for this beauty):
"In the newly released benchmark report, 'Application Security: Protect Sensitive Data while Improving Compliance,' Aberdeen Group, a Harte-Hanks Company, found that on average, Best-in-Class organizations were able to realize a 12x greater decrease in the number of successful application security attacks than Industry Average companies as a direct result of incorporating the right blend of technologies and services as a part of their comprehensive application security strategies."
Huh? Can someone explain the meaning and what I'm supposed to get from that sentence?
As communications professionals, some of us are either not equipped with the right skills when we leave PR school, and/or we're losing those skills in favor of Twitter jargon and a media cycle with the attention span of a flytrap.
Good storytelling is a skill that needs to be nurtured by PR professionals, and taught profusely within agencies and by academics. It is not about form, but about substance. Companies want us to tout their wares, so we have to rise about mediocre drivel and produce compelling stories for our media audience.
Good storytelling can incite emotions, can make us buy triple-stack hamburgers when we're not hungry or cause our minds to create fantastic what-if scenarios. Good stories can make us cry, laugh or feel sick. Even better, good stories can make journalists pick up the phone or hit the reply button to our emails, saying, "Tell me more, I want to know." They are the reactions that good storytelling can invoke, and I don't think that's something we can do with a micro-tweet or pushing a one-size-fits-all template that's been approved by corporate because it's safe and sounds good to the CEO.
Our clients demand more results from us than ever before. As consumers, we've become more demanding and less forgiving. So as communicators, we really should know better. We don't want to be sold to or have stuff pushed in our faces. We want stories that make us "feel," which is exactly what our communications to media should also do.
Our clients need their brands boosted, their products sold and their services in demand. As PR people, we need to understand and capture what pushes peoples' buttons -- whether we're pitching reporters, bloggers or consumers - and, ultimately, what makes them react in ways we want. Our industry is not about distributing press releases but about communicating our clients' everything in meaningful, impactful ways.
Good stories don't need to be packaged in special kits or on glossy paper to be effective. They just need to tell and, ultimately, sell our clients' stories very well.
So if you want to call them pitches or releases, go ahead. Just don't forget that stories have been around for thousands of years, influencing people and their decisions.
Wouldn't you want your story to have that kind of power?