5 Ways to Make a Successful Leap to Brand Storytelling

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Wells Fargo's Chris Hammond

Veteran PR professionals who have fought in the trenches to get fair coverage for their organizations, manage reputation and develop internal and external messages are now finding that their unassailable skill sets might not be quite complete. To compete against infinite messages crowding mobile devices, laptops and, yes, paper media, they're expected to become brand storytellers as well.

Haven't they been brand storytellers all along? Isn't a news release, for example, a medium for telling a brand's story?

Yes, and no. There's a new emphasis on conscious, deliberate storytelling—on taking the well-honed writing skills PR pros spend years developing and applying the ancient craft of the fireside storyteller. As Chris Hammond, senior vice president, strategic programs and social media, for Wells Fargo & Company's Consumer Lending Group says, "PR pros on the cutting edge are building their storytelling skill sets and making a leap from simply writing a press release to brand storytelling."

Hammond, who will be speaking at PR News' Writing Boot Camp on Feb. 4 at the Westin San Francisco, offers five tips to help you make the leap to brand storytelling:

  1. Take it to your audience: Narrowing your focus on your audience is a good guide to reaching them. Your audience has infinite choices. Ask yourself why your audience should care and what impression you want them to walk away with from reading your story. Then amplify your story beyond a press release with your corporate blog, a video and social platforms.
  2. Incorporate story elements: Every memorable story has common elements including a plot, conflict and a main character the audience can relate to. Whether as a case study or customer testimonial, stories that are most engaging chronicle how the main character overcomes a conflict. How does your story demonstrate how your brand can help the target audience achieve a solution?
  3. Humanize it: Even the most impressive of widgets and numbers in a news release have little meaning without context. Strong storytellers are able to articulate how their brand is making a tangible difference in the lives of people, and even evoking emotion. Are you pushing out announcements for widgets and numbers, or are you making it a point to humanize your story?
  4. Be genuine: Whether you're with a b2c brand, b2b brand or a nonprofit, there is little doubt your target audience has a discerning eye and can tell when a story is less than authentic. Does your story seem too commercial and contrived, or does it successfully pass the test for being authentic and genuine?
  5. Make it visual: Telling your story with video or an infographic can make a big difference. Are there visuals you can integrate with your press release to help drive your storytelling?

Chris Hammond will share insight into Wells Fargo's brand storytelling tactics at PR News' Writing Boot Camp on Feb. 4 in San Francisco.

Follow Chris Hammond: @ChrisHammondWF

Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI


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About Steve Goldstein

Steve Goldstein is editorial director of events for Access Intelligence’s PR News brand, which encompasses premium, how-to content, data and competitive intelligence for public relations professionals; PR News Online; PR News conferences, webinars and awards programs; and PR News guidebooks. Previously at AI Steve was editorial director of min, min ’s b2b and minonline as well as managing editor of CableFAX: The Magazine and CableWorld. Before joining Access Intelligence, he was executive editor of World Screen News, and editor of Film/Tape World, which covered film, television and commercial production in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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