If you work in the public relations profession, you’ve probably heard a common lament among clients – “People aren’t getting our story.“
It may be one of the common denominators that make clients from diverse industries and across all practices of public relations alike. Whether launching a brand, working an issue in Washington, conducting an investor road show or managing a crisis, having a compelling story is a fundamental requirement.
In the public relations business, we’ve always been storytellers – whether you call it messaging, corporate/brand positioning or narrative – it’s all about the story. And the greatest, most iconic brands and companies do it really, really well – Nike, GE, Apple and Starbucks all understand that to remain relevant as you grow and change, having a story that resonates is key.
This piece on Starbucks features the philosophies of noted brand evangelist Stanley Hainsworth, and credits great storytelling for transforming a commodity product into a $4 splurge. He talks a lot about the art of storytelling, and gives us a glimpse into the approach he uses to create an emotional connection with stakeholders. As I read this piece, I was struck with the significant alignment between his priorities and the way we approach developing a client’s narrative at MWW Group…in particular, the emphasis on tailoring your story for different audiences – what we call the Total Stakeholder Approach.
The irony is that while this may be a fresh, new approach for the brand evangelist – it has been core to of great public relations programming and strategy from the beginning.
How do you know if your story needs revisiting and refreshing?
- Any time there has been a significant change in your business – new leaders, new business strategy, new line of business. Chances are you need to rethink your narrative. A more thoughtful approach would have made a big difference for Netflix, and saved them lots of backpedaling.
- Significant changes in your industry also call for a new story – because your old story simply won’t be relevant anymore.
- Shift in strategy or emphasis on who, or what, is important.
- If you are underperforming – in sales, in employee retention, in share price performance – that may be a sign that your story isn’t resonating.
- If it feels stale, out of date or misaligned with your priorities – even if it isn’t impacting your stakeholders yet.