As Seth Godin, entrepreneur, best-selling author and speaker said, “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.”

The same is true for public relations: effective PR requires quality storytelling.

In her Harvard Business Review article, How to Tell a Great Story, Carolyn O’Hara explains that “stories create “sticky” memories by attaching emotions to things that happen. That means leaders who can create and share good stories have a powerful advantage over others.”

To create connection through storytelling, it is vital to understand the audience and then look for ways to engage on an emotional level to captivate that intended audience.

A compelling story illustrates effect and engages the audience. Often the effect (or what is at stake) is easy for the storyteller to identify and articulate. However, as a storyteller developing engagement with the audience can be a little trickier.

Recently, I rediscovered a resource about storytelling that contains some helpful reminders about how to help audiences connect with your message and drive engagement. A storyteller doesn’t have to use all of these prompts for the story to be considered compelling but including some of these attributes will help.

The suggested attributes or prompts include:

  • Ownership. To get your audience to feel ownership, you can include details that create a sense of belonging or calls on their sense of responsibility.
  • Mystery. Readers often are more engaged when they story is unpredictable.
  • Uniqueness. By offering something new or fresh you can differentiate your story from others and make it stand out.
  • Familiarity. Alternatively, you can include elements that are relatable for the audience to create a sense of familiarity to deepen engagement.
  • Humanity. You can also identify the human elements of your story. To do this consider, how we as humans make sense of things, how we approach risk taking and more.
  • Contrast. Noticing and highlighting contrasts or differences is another common way that writers drive engagement. It is a technique is commonly used in pieces that present both sides of an argument. For instance, consider these letters to the editor of the New York Times surrounding legalizing marijuana.
  • Urgency. You can Create an understanding of why it matters now. This technique is used in many types of writing from news articles to literary fiction.

Given the importance of storytelling in public relations, it is a skill we continue to refine and develop. The approach we use to tell stories varies and the attributes we integrate into a story depend on the audience and objectives.

Over the years, we have published numerous blogs about storytelling – including “What Makes a Good Story?” and Storytelling Lessons Writers Can Learn From Taylor Swift, one of our most popular blogs in 2021.

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