• Isabel Johnston

PR: Why should a business invest in storytelling?

I am what you call a communications geek. Is there even such a term…? Basically, I am passionate about companies telling their story, business owners and CEOs engaging with their staff and people thinking about their audience and what’s important to them. I hate reading jargon not aimed at me as a person.

Having been part of small and larger corporate communications teams for over a decade, I’ve been in an environment, where communications has been invested in (mostly!) and directors and staff understand it (mostly!). It’s part of the corporate structure, as much as finance, HR and IT.

But you see, I’m new to the freelance work. Since flying solo, I’ve been left surprised to find how many people have asked me similar critical questions doubting the value of communications or looking beyond paid advertising as a solution. How will it increase my sales? Or merely … I’m happy with my business, so what’s the point in media coverage or looking at what the copy on my website, social media or newsletters represent?

It's blown my mind. Because as the geek I am, I am absolutely adamant that everyone needs to think about communications and public relations (PR) as part of their business plan.

You may not need a professional to help you on this (but please call me to check!), but investing in communications planning and good PR will help you achieve your goals. It makes you feel proud, raise awareness of your brand and engage a vital two-way conversation with your customers. It helps you plan, it avoids wasting time and it definitely helps you if or when a crisis hits.

PR vs advertising

To start by myth busting …. PR is NOT advertising. Media coverage is about a story – mostly a people story about your business, your product, you … Industry-wide it is acknowledged that the value of PR is three times as high as advertising (in terms of value). People trust an article by a journalist more than an advert – you get higher value from it. Not to say you shouldn’t ever advertise, but it has a different purpose. Media coverage is not a dictation to a paper or radio station what to put on a page and pay for it. Marketing and PR done together can make you even more successful …. But that’s a different story.

Why I think ‘Communications’ is cool:

- It drives real conversation: Two-way, not just you shouting out to the world what your product entails. People don’t want to be talked ‘at’ but talked ‘to’. Customers that are fully engaged share a much higher share of your revenue compared to the average customer (Gallup)

- It raises awareness of your brand: Customers and staff seeing you in the media can give a sense of pride and spark a conversation, plus attract new prospects

- It gives you a status quo of where you are: So many people are simply not aware who their audience is and by delving deeper, segmenting, mapping it out and even surveying them … it helps you understand what reality looks like

- Gives clarity on your product: Thinking about your messages to each of your audiences makes it clearer for you to target right. You waste less time and increase the value for yourself and not least your customers. It’s a win, win situation

- It makes you succinct: Often brands and copywriting, particularly of smaller businesses, are a bit disjointed. It makes it hard for clients to understand the product or see how it’s all connected. Being clear on your key messages means you simplify, avoid jargon and can repeat it. Consider that the average audience need a message at least seven times before they remember it …

- It helps you in a crisis: This one isn’t nice, but time after time I’ve helped people that have suddenly found themselves in a negative media storm or viral social media post that has impacted their sales. Relationships are key here to regain confidence and be able to bounce back

- It gives pride: Seeing a story in the media about the human side of us, our product or even better something told via our customers makes us happy. Everyone likes a story … we’re all people at the end of the day. Stories about us as humans, make businesses more attractive to us . We support them, recommend them and ultimately it does affect your sales

- It saves time: When you are totally clear on your brand, key messages, audience and plan ahead, you avoid spending a long time writing social media posts, newsletters, web copy, leaflets, videos and more which simply aren’t seen, heard or understood

Not just ‘fluff’

Writing a communications plan, with objectives, messages, timelines, channels and next steps is so valuable. Yes, it’s the communications geek talking, but when someone says PR is ‘fluff’ I have taken to asking them to explain their business to me in three words. About when they last got a client testimonial (not a sales testimonial…. A real story). When they last asked them how they want to be communicated with. How high their engagement is on social media (not their likes or bought followers). How they’d feel about featuring on the radio as an expert or their success being in the paper. I could go on ….

So, do call me if you think you may want to give it a go or learn more. My freelance self is pretty excited to help you succeed!