Strategic Storytelling: The Backbone of Public Relations

Dec 26, 2016

Strategic Storytelling for Public Relations.jpg


Public Relations is about storytelling.

People are attracted to stories, and as public relations professionals or organizations trying to communicate with consumers or increase brand recognition, storytelling is paramount. However, it’s often more difficult than it sounds.

So, how can we create content that people actually want to consume?

Employ a classic storytelling structure

From fairytales to New York Times bestsellers, the most compelling stories have a plot, a hero, and a satisfying conclusion. A happy ending actually activates the limbic system—the brain’s reward center—to release dopamine making us feel more hopeful and optimistic.

Even if the story you want to share is about a new product or upcoming fundraiser, consider how you can craft it to contain these key storytelling elements, and present it in a way that excites your audience’s imagination.

Build story houses

Public relations professionals are taught to think in terms of “message houses,” a simple tool that helps a team stay on message. They look something like this.

Public Relations Message House.png

Message houses are an effective way to help your team stay on message, but that isn’t always interesting to the media and consumers.

Additionally, try to think in terms of “story houses,” or anecdotes that tell your story while also aligning with journalists’ needs.

Give behind-the-scenes access

Seth Godin wrote about the power of authentic storytelling in a low-trust world. Sharing something real with your audience humanizes your brand and gets them talking about your organization.

Often, we are too rigid, only thinking of a particular event or activity as the story we want to share. Instead, look at the stories behind those events—what it took to get there, who made it possible, what went wrong along the way.   

Leverage user-generated content.

There is nothing more real or trustworthy than content created by your brand’s users—customers, site visitors, social followers. It includes reviews, testimonials, comments, social posts, forums, etc. Think about how you can integrate this content into the stories you craft. What is the plot? Who are the heros? How is it resolved?

Mine the content for the anecdotes you will use to pitch your stories to the media. Consider how you can use this content to tell the stories behind the stories.

Want more of our thoughts on strategic storytelling can help your PR efforts, contact us to set up a call or a meeting.



Maribeth Neelis


As a digital marketing strategist, Maribeth loves learning and writing about content marketing, social media, SEO, paid advertising, PR and mobile. She is obsessed with data-driven marketing and believes all online channels should be given a strategy, so engagement can be personalized and well targeted. In her free time, she likes watching science documentaries, hiking, skiing and traveling to far-flung places.

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