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The Power of Narrative Storytelling in Public Relations

Apr 9, 2014 5:04 AM / by Lauren Kaufman

In the age of digital storytelling, how can we leverage multimedia to tell our clients’ stories in a way that best engages their stakeholders? As PR professionals, it’s easy to forget that we’re not the only ones struggling to navigate the constant changes of the media industry.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend The Power of Narrative Conference, held by Boston University this past weekend, for the 2nd year in a row. The conference brings together journalists, academics, PR pros and filmmakers from across the world—everywhere from Mississippi to Johannesburg. This year, the event focused on staying savvy, staying skilled and staying solvent—best practices for narrative journalism in the digital age.

Listening to Amy O’Leary, Digital Producer at the NY Times share her successes and failures in multimedia storytelling, I realized that digital storytelling is a challenge that faces communications professionals across the board. In one of my favorite sessions, “Mixing Media, Audiences, Topics, Sensibilities: Implementing Cool Digital Projects,” Amy said something that really resonated with me. She said, “Always start with the story.”

In a time of digital overload, we have countless ways to share our stories. From infographics and GIFs to memes and interactives, it can be overwhelming to implement multimedia elements into a story, and more is definitely not always better, but if you start with the basics, and take a hard, analytical look at the story you want to tell, the right multimedia additions will become clear.

As PR professionals, we’re in a unique position. Often times our clients have digital assets, or the bandwidth to create multimedia elements, which journalists may not. When navigated correctly, this can be of great value for journalists looking drive innovation at their publication.

Another interesting takeaway from this session came from Kat Chow, Founding Member of NPR’s Code Switch. Kat discussed how she is drawn to telling stories on social media. While demonstrating examples of successful hashtags and Twitter handles that she has launched, she said, “the beauty of social media is that you can play around and see what works with your audience.” She went on to share that NPR’s comment section is a major focus for Code Switch, and stirring conversation is a key goal/mission statement of their team. It’s important to understand that communications professionals across the board are adapting to digital storytelling—from the way we tell to stories, to the way we measure success. Just as we, in public relations are moving away from impressions and shares, to engagement as a metric of impact, so are journalists and filmmakers.

 

Were you able to attend The Power of Narrative this past weekend? Have any thoughts/best practices you’d like to share? Tweet me at @LaurenAKaufman.

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