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March 07, 2007


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The art of story-telling is one area in which public relations practitioners could learn a lot from their counterparts in the journalism world. Journalism schools have long taught the value of building a story around something interesting rather than simply reporting the facts. Good reporters grab the attention of the audience and deliver the facts through a strong narrative.

Good public relations professionals also understand the importance of drawing in both the public and the media with compelling stories. Sure, through new avenues such as company websites, the opportunity exists more than ever for corporations to communicate directly with the public. But what good are those websites if they offer nothing interesting to that public?

Storytelling is clearly just as important as ever - if not more important - in today's changing world of communications.

I hope no one really has thrown out their Rolodex filled with their journalist contacts (unless you moved them onto your computer first)! Mass media relations are still the most important part of our jobs. But we do need to augment that work with an increasing dedication to social media relations. Here's why -- the people who blog (or read blogs) about your product, brand or industry are your most important customers. Some are your advocates and some are your strong detractors. But they are all important. A blog may reach only a few hundred people a week -- a tiny percentage of the readers of your local newspaper. But the blog readers are a highly selective group where the majority of the newspaper's readers likely have no particular interest in your product or brand. (And just because you placed an article in that paper doesn't mean you've successfully reached the paper's entire circulation -- unless yours is the lead story on page one above the fold with a 64-point headline, chances are that some subset of the total circulation actually read that particular article).

Mass media relations are most concerned with building awareness (and building some level of favorablility) among a large group of potential consumers. Micro media relations are most concerned with driving actionable favorability and/or overcoming objections to a product or brand. Micro media relations can, for example, target "in-market" customers leading to purchase decisions, or overcome strong objections that left to fester might rise to crisis level (e.g., a boycott). Develop and maintain a strong competency in both mass media and micro media relations and include each in your PR strategy.

Many people have “thrown out their Rollodex wheels” and are full on the new media revolution. What about the people that are still cynical of the new media tactics? How do you get their buy into the credibility of blogs when they are used to the normal standards of traditional mediums?

I've just been recommended to this post and your blog - and enjoyed very much. I'm looking at corporate stories in some depth with a few thoughts going on at present and agree with you about their importance. This helps us also think about the integrity of passing along a narrative and also the human aspect, particularly of dialogue - so we don't think of "audiences" as people to talk at, but with.

Great 3 perspectives you noted too - I would add the importance of respect for others as part of trust. We have to be less about trying to control and manipulate through force of power or skill and more about listening to the often valid viewpoints of others with whom our organisations are connected, whether they like it or not.

This is a very good entry, Jon! We certainly need more blogs like yours. It is really difficult to "tell a story", and the Web makes it even more difficult for those who are not properly "trained". The role of PR is changing and the way we do PR changes as well. Of course it is our responsibility as PR officers to teach our clients how to convey a message in the best format to reach the targeted audience. I wrote an article about the new social media press release (SMPR) that might be of use for your readers as well, but this is just one piece of the puzzle. There's more to be done in terms of online and offline PR.

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