Story Finding, Rather than Storytelling, May Help Increase Cultural Relevance

open book with magnifying glass on wooden desk in information library of school or university, concept for education,reading , study, copy space and blue background.

Kickstarter recently added two Twitter alums to its marketing and communications team: Courtney Brown Warren as VP of Brand Marketing and Nikki Kria as Head of Communications.

PRNEWS spoke with Kria about the plans to revitalize the brand. The conversation has been edited for length.

PRNEWS: Tell us about your plans and priorities for Kickstarter.

Nikki Krea
Nikki Kria, Head of Communications, Kickstarter

Nikki Kria: Courtney [Brown Warren] and I will be collaborating to shape an overarching marketing and comms strategy focused on how we talk about the brand, who we're talking to, how we talk across these different audiences, and elevating the way that Kickstarter shows up across speaking, media relations, owned events and content channels, like blogs, social, etc.

… There's a sense that Kickstarter has lost a bit of its share of voice or space in the cultural conversation. Attached to that, there's a lot of really cool stories that people just don't know; we recognize that there's a real need to remind people of the brand stories or business stories that are, in part, powered by Kickstarter—these were brands that are big, but were crowdfunded through Kickstarter in the early stages…Reminding people that there's space for creators, known and unknown, to find success, to find funds and find community through Kickstarter.

Right now, on day eight…I'm doing a lot of listening, reading and asking, why and why not? I’m taking stock of how we do things [and asking], why do we do them that way, and then understanding where there are areas for opportunity to either continue doing something, or do something differently or stop doing something altogether.

The process that I'm going through now is having those conversations with execs and then formulating an overarching communication strategy that defines our key messages, that defines where we're showing up, the priorities in terms of our storytelling, and then shaping our talking points.

PRNEWS: How do you incorporate those stories of the brands that people don't necessarily associate with Kickstarter?

Kria: It's a couple of things. First, doing more story finding…finding those things that look interesting, campaigns that are raising funds really quickly or have a really loud and vocal fan base. I think telling more of those stories before we even know if something is going to pop and really have an impact on culture. And then also telling the success stories; once these projects are live and we're seeing them pick up traction, how do we incorporate that founder or that creator into some blog content, into social? It's more about amplifying what we are doing.

Courtney and I are thinking about other ways to tap into those big names that have had success already, and incorporating them into some of our brand campaigns or brand activations moving forward.

PRNEWS: There's a lot of discussion about the changing role of communications and where it sits in relation to marketing. It sounds like you and Courtney are operating in sync, and it probably helps that you started at the same time. How much more impactful is it to have marketing and comms coming together and approaching the brand story in a holistic way?

Kria: Collaboration and alignment between marketing and comms is fundamentally critical. It's the thing that needs to happen. I've definitely had experiences in previous roles where priorities feel different. There are moments where something can be a marketing priority, but not necessarily be a communications priority. But there should be the big, tier-one things that both entities should share and be able to brainstorm together.

For example, Courtney, earlier this week, was like, "I have some ideas that I want to run by you because I want to see if they’re press-worthy." It's about being able to lean on each other for the other person's or other team's area of expertise, and then being able to build an idea together that is informed by both sides and that considers what each side would have to do to make something successful.

If folks aren't feeling like they're in line with their marketing counterparts, or you don't exist in the same org, you have different priorities, it's about seeing where you can align.

If the teams are not in the same org, and they're not encouraged to share priorities, it can be hard as an individual to push up against some of the structural hurdles. But do your best to find  the areas where we can align. And  create regular touch points and communication where we can understand what the other hand is doing.

PRNEWS: That's probably easier said than done at some organizations, especially legacy organizations. But regardless, measurement and success metrics are pain points for communicators. By being integrated with marketing, how do you tap into their measurement tools and prove PR value?

Kria: I haven't gotten to that point yet in my conversations internally, but…what's top of mind for me is, what metrics are important to marketing that prove their effectiveness and the value of their work? What are the priority metrics for me, and how can we find a partner or provider that considers both sides, the full picture?

PRNEWS: You’ve talked about cultural relevancy. Are there any specific tactics that you're using to reinvigorate Kickstarter? 

Kria: The brand marketing team is positioned to help put Kickstarter back on the cultural map. The fact that there is a brand marketing team, within which there is not just marketing, but editorial, social, and myself on the communications and PR front, all of those levers help to get a business back on the cultural map or back on the tips of people's tongues.

Anything tactically goes back to, how do we tell the stories of things that are cool and buzzy and successful on our platform, and also remind people of the stories that have passed, the cool businesses that we've already been a part of helping to come to life? And I think it's also about leaning into what makes us distinct and what makes us exciting.

One of the things that I'm thinking a lot about is the voice of Kickstarter, the way that we articulate and express ourselves. Does it match the energy of the platform, the energy of the creators, the energy of the projects that we see on platform? And is there a little bit more swagger that maybe we inherently have, but don't articulate all the time in our voice?

I feel like there's this almost rebellious, counterculture spirit, within Kickstarter. It's obvious to me, but I don't think we express it enough. Fundamentally, the platform and its existence recognize that there is a status quo that is inaccessible to most creators. And by existing, this gives people that were on the margins of the creative community, or couldn’t access certain things that only a select few of the creative community could access, can now access that more easily and more broadly than we could before Kickstarter existed. There's a boldness there and an energy there that I feel like we can bring forth a little bit more. And I think if we can achieve that, it will really resonate culturally.

PRNEWS: What are your best tips for breaking through the noise of a crowded marketplace?

Kria: I think that there's something to finding the stories, not just telling them. I think all comms professionals can relate to that feeling of having stories brought to us by executives that we support that are like, I think this thing is really cool. Can you tell this story?

I think a lot of times we get so caught up in finding ways to tell the stories that are brought to us that we don't have the bandwidth to dig deeper and look at some of the other areas that maybe aren’t top of mind for our executives, but are really cool stories. So if it's possible to carve out space for yourself, as a comms person, go beyond or beneath the stories that are being brought to you and your team.

Also, push the business and the spokespeople to not just talk about the evergreen topics that are being discussed in their industry, but what nuance they can add, what provocative POV they can add. A lot of what we see, as comms people, is a lot of people repeating the same things on different platforms.

A lot of people could benefit from just saying something a little bit different. How is your perspective informed by your personal experience? What is it that you feel that people are not talking about within this conversation? Try to push into a provocative POV, rather than just regurgitating the same sort of evergreen opinions.

I think it's also about not just leaning into what is distinct about your company, but showing the unique way that your business serves the world, impacts the world, and finding ways to lean into where you tell the stories and how you tell the stories.