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Answer These 3 Questions to Tell a Better Story

Stories are the bread and butter of the PR world. They’re what get accepted at guest publications, and they’re what pique people’s interest. That is, they generate media coverage and brand awareness and engagement.

PR Storytelling

Telling a better story does mean revisiting the traditional story arc, but it also means writing for relevancy, clarity and cohesiveness, and emotion.

1. Is the Story Relevant?

Relevant - PR Storytelling

I can tell a story about a wide variety of subjects. Squirrels? Check. Dairy cows? Ditto. Salsa dancing? Yes. But if those stories aren’t relevant to my audience, I have no business telling them. My audience won’t care that squirrels invaded my dorm room. They might find the story amusing, but they won’t have a greater understanding of or interest in my brand.

To be relevant, I have to remove myself from the equation. My stories may be entertaining, but my audience’s needs and wants come first. Could my squirrel story meet a need or a want? Maybe, but I mustn’t let my desire to tell my story overshadow the necessity of telling a relevant one.

2. Is the Story Cohesive and Clear?

Lemming - Tell Better PR Stories

Don’t expect your audience to be lemmings.

When I’m with friends, our stories interact with one another, typically leading to digressions and tangents. We sometimes return to the original point, but the origin sometimes is forever lost. In other cases, how we arrived at a certain topic is unclear. Somebody’s mind made an associative leap, and we followed it much like lemmings jumping off a cliff.

PR-driven stories cannot follow that formula. They have to have a point to them, and they have to get to that point as quickly and clearly as possible. They can’t bound and bounce from one topic to another or neglect a necessary comma or semicolon. When they do, someone always gets lost, resulting in lost opportunities for engagement and conversions.

3. Does the Story Have Emotion?

Better PR Stories - Food Bank

Stories have to have an emotional pulse. Numbers are wonderful and can prove a point, but they should always tie to a personal anecdote. What does it matter if more canned goods were donated to the local food bank if the number isn’t accompanied with a story about the families who were impacted? For that matter, what about the extra volunteers needed to process those canned goods? They have stories, too, and they’re the ones that can increase volunteerism.

The same goes for talking about a social issue or concern. Diabetes may be prevalent in the United States, but stating the number of cases diagnosed doesn’t convey reality or get anyone to act. Real-life stories, like ones about family members participating in races or people living with the disease, generate awareness and engagement.

Telling a story well takes practice, but you can do it. When you write your next PR piece, ask yourself if the story is relevant. If it is, tap into its emotional pulse. Finally, look at your story objectively and assess it for clarity and cohesiveness. If you do those three things, you’ll find yourself writing better stories that resonate with your audiences and generate the coverage and awareness you desire.

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Images: UNE PhotosFrode Inge Helland, U.S. Department of Agriculture (Creative Commons)

About Erin Feldman

Erin Feldman is the director of editorial services at Tenacity5 Media. When she isn’t researching, writing, and editing blog posts and white papers, she writes poetry and essays, draws her favorite Write Right character, and plans what art form to study next. She’s based in Austin, Texas and can be found on Twitter @erinmfeldman.

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