Is storytelling part of your brand journalism strategy? It should be

Forward-thinking organizations are stacking their PR and communications teams with journalists so they can tell stories with human appeal.

When you hear the word “storytelling,” does it make you a bit uneasy?

Storytelling involves emotion, feelings, uncertainty—the opposite of everything a business is supposed to be about, right?

“Numbers, hard data, results, ROI!” It’s a constant refrain. Executives want certainty, consistency, and risk mitigation.

There’s only one problem: Certainty, consistency, and risk mitigation are boring! Stories involve uncertainty, suspense, and drama.

How do you bridge the gap? Where is the common ground?

Here it is—this is key: Stories make a difference in people’s lives.

A good business is adding value to make a difference in people’s lives, too.

As a former reporter, I’ve seen the difference stories make.

My first story assignment at my first newspaper job in Williston, North Dakota, was to profile a mom who couldn’t find housing for her family. Her husband was working on a drilling rig and the city was in the midst of a raging oil boom (as it is again today).

I began the piece with a four-paragraph story about her and her homeless children, and the next day a local homeowner tracked her down and offered her a room in her house. If it weren’t for the story, nothing would have happened.

Now, as the CEO and publisher of Ragan Communications and PR Daily, I’ve been bringing stories and content that adds value to the lives of our customers and our employees.

The brand journalism and content marketing elements of the business are more indispensable than ever. And that’s not only true for those in the publishing industry. It’s becoming true for every industry.

That’s right. Brand journalism is becoming indispensable to every industry.

The core of any business is providing value through your product or service.

Now, it’s essential that you add value by providing useful and relevant content to people who care about your industry.

As Andrew Davis, the chief strategy officer at Tippingpoint Labs, says ad nauseam: “Valuable content increases demand for the products and services you sell.”

It’s no coincidence that forward-thinking organizations are filling their PR and communications teams with journalists.

Coca-Cola is among the well-known examples of companies that have stacked its communications team with journalists. Aurora University hired former Sun-Times reporter Dave Parro to put out stories for its news and press page. Chrysler’s communication department boasts a former CNN bureau chief. I could go on.

Here are three steps you can take to transform your PR or internal communications work from business jargon to human stories:

1. Get out of the office.
You won’t understand the value your company is adding to other people unless you are out there listening to them.

2. Go visual.
We have reached beyond the era of the press release. To hold people’s attention and tell a compelling story, you need more than blocks of text. You will need images and video.

3. Get out of PR mode (at least temporarily).
In order to tell a genuine story, you can’t blow the corporate trumpet at every turn. Stories that resonate with people are about people. They’re not only about your company or product. The organization will be part of the story, but put it where it belongs—usually in the background.

Seem overwhelming? Our media environment is very crowded. But that’s why you’ve got to stay ahead of the curve—because if you don’t, you will get left behind.

The good news is, if you transform your communications team into a media machine, you will be light-years ahead of your competitors.

All of this is possible, even with a limited budget and limited time. All it takes is learning the tricks to turn your corporate communications team into a digital storytelling hub.

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