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Creating PR stories. It’s SIMPLES!


My learners often ask for a handy toolbox of techniques that they can take away to use for creating their own PR stories.   So, I developed this acronym of the letters S I M P L E S and hope that you find it helpful when planning how to make every PR story or piece of PR content work hard.

S = simple narrative

Campaign messages need to be turned into meaningful PR stories and my view is that the simpler the narrative, the better.  I love how NHS Blood and Transplant’s campaign for National Blood Week 2015 transformed key messages of ‘There is a shortage of blood groups O and A.  Support  National Blood Week and register to give blood’ into a wonderfully simple narrative – Help to fill the g ps. Do something amazing. Give blood.#missingtype

I = illustrate PR stories with a visual

We live in a very visual world and it’s never been easier to produce photographs, video, graphics  or infographics for PR.  One rule is king – every visual must illustrate the gist of the story.

Here are some of my favourite examples of visuals used for PR storytelling:

A good example is this photograph

Photos by Warwick Thornton for The Future is Unforgiving, an Australian exhibition looking at children and what will become of their lives.
Photos by Warwick Thornton for The Future is Unforgiving, an Australian exhibition looking at children and what will become of their lives.

Or this simple animation, created by Emmeline May and used by Thames Valley Police to educate people on sexual consent.

Infographics are also a great way to illustrate complicated information, but they work best when kept simple as illustrated by the examples in this Guardian article.  When infographics first became popular, it seemed that any words turned into pictures could go viral providing it looked pretty. No so now.  Story telling lies at the heart of a good infographic as do great insights says Joel Windels of Brandwatch.  So what are the most successful infographics?  Depends on what the aim is.  If it’s reach or engagement, then this infographic on the ‘Science of what makes an infographic popular’ can be useful – but for me, success should always be judged by the impact of the story.

M = make the story move people

PR stories that make people happy, sad, frightened, angry, surprised or disgusted help us get beyond people’s minds and into their hearts.

P = person (or messenger) must be credible

The credibility or appeal of the person speaking is considered a key factor in the persuasiveness of a message (as proposed by Aristotle’s rhetoric mode of  ‘egos’ and source credibility theory).   We see this in action every day when organisations voice their stories through others who may be more credible – experts, celebrity, video bloggers or partner organisations.

L = life stories

Real life stories satisfy our curiosity for what goes on in other people’s lives and we can see this through the popularity of TV soaps, fly-on-the-wall documentaries and the reportage in media and social media posts.  So when planning PR, it’s helpful to consider how stories can be told through case studies and personal quotes – through video, features and soundbites.

E = element of surprise

Stories that carry an unexpected or surprising twist can cut through the clutter and compel others to pass on or share – like this one from PETA by Ogilvy and Mather.

S = sharable

PR stories that can easily be passed on through word of mouth, shared on social and amplified.

I hope that this checklist helps next time you have to create PR stories. What else do you do when planning your PR?

Here are more tips on the essentials every campaign.

I cover storytelling in my PR writing training course.
Meerkat picture courtesy of Michael Elliott Free Digital Photos

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