Stop Me If You’ve Heard This Story Before

Once Upon a TimeIf you listen to podcasts in which Hollywood actors and directors are interviewed you'll often hear the statement, "I love telling stories." It's always about storytelling. It's never about entertainment or making a beautiful dollar. Storytelling is presented as a calling and given a spiritual sheen. Entertainment, by contrast, is crass.

You can't help but roll your eyes as you listen to these podcasts while standing at the kitchen sink, scrubbing a frying pan.

You'll often hear the same phrase from PR practitioners—that they "love telling stories" and that storytelling is at the core of everything they do.

In the both cases—with showbiz people and PR people—the glorification of the storyteller betrays a certain emphasis of self over product. Why should we care that an actor considers himself a storyteller, or that a PR pro has "passion for storytelling"? Actors should serve the story first, and serve themselves as self-styled storytellers second, or perhaps third or fourth. Similarly, PR pros should serve the product or service they're representing and keep the notion of themselves as storytellers in the far background.

No one needs or necessarily wants to hear a brand's story, but everyone needs certain products and services. Instead of focusing on telling stories that are usually tangentially related to a brand, PR pros should clearly and succinctly communicate the unique benefits of a given product or service across all channels. This mind-set should govern the creation and sharing of content as well as pitches to the media.

Focus on the benefits to buyers of your product or service and you'll never have to wonder if you're addressing the what's-in-it-for-me factor or if your communications or content efforts connect to your business' bottom line.

Leave the brand storytelling to those with real influence—your satisfied customers.