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Stories aren’t just for bedtime: Why PR needs storytelling to be successful


In our digital-happy world, audiences are bombarded with countless messages. This online chatter makes it more difficult to make your brand’s voice heard. Long gone are the days when a single press release could gain tons of exposure. Instead of talking at an audience with brand-centric content, it’s time to shake things up with the art of storytelling. 

Why storytelling matters

Storytelling isn’t a fluffy, nice-to-have strategy. If you aren’t doing structured storytelling to sell your brand, you need to send an email to your PR team ASAP. That’s how important it is.

Cut through the clutter

Experts dub customers’ online attention span as the highly valued “attention economy.” Because customers’ attention is divided across channels and messages, it’s more challenging to engage with your audience online.

The human brain isn’t wired to remember hard facts and data. We have trouble remembering the dates of the Civil War, for example, but have no problem remembering an embarrassing incident from sixth grade.

The best way to cut through this clutter is to tell unique, engaging stories.

Emotional connection

People rarely form an emotional connection with a sale flyer. However, people do form connections with emotional stories. Outdoor retailer REI mastered emotional storytelling with their famous “Paul’s Boots” campaign.

The content had little to do with REI’s products, but it told an amazing, emotional, story that spread like wildfire. Emotion connects people to your brand through the power of storytelling. Sure, new product notices and press releases are important, but emotion is the glue that makes this information stick.

Not spammy

Customers know we have skin in the game when we talk about how great our product is. That’s a recipe for losing eyeballs on your content, and nobody wants that. Stories aren’t spammy because people find them naturally entertaining.

Storytelling creates real value for your customers. With storytelling, you’re in the business of entertaining people, not pushing product on unwilling recipients. Rely on organic, entertaining stories to sell your brand indirectly.

How to tell stories in PR

We know we should be telling stories, but how can we make it a reality? Follow these steps to craft the perfect brand story to stand out from the crowd.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: stories need to make your customers feel something. Positive emotions, like nostalgia, humor, and triumph tend to be more successful in boosting your brand.

There’s a famous legend about advertising magnate Ogilvy. He passed a blind man one day whose sign said, “I’m blind. Help.” The man’s donation cup was empty. Ogilvy takes the man’s sign, flips it over, and writes a new message. In a matter of an hour, the man’s cup is full of change. He asks Ogilvy what he wrote on the sign. Ogilvy says, “I wrote ‘It’s a beautiful day and I cannot see it.’ ”

PR pros can also take this approach by focusing on the emotion behind a message.

Make the story great

All the emotion and chutzpah in the world won’t make for a great story. Every great story needs an arc. The most common is the “hero’s journey,” which starts with an unlikely hero on a quest, trying to win in the face of adversity.

Use the four P’s of writing to craft your hero’s journey:

  1. People: Feature your story around a person, like an employee or customer. Choose a central character in your story to be the unlikely hero.
  2. Places: Nobody wants to watch a movie that’s set in one place. Make the story visual and take your hero on a journey.
  3. Processes: The process is all about your hero’s struggles and his or her journey to the finish line.
  4. Products: You can and should mention your brand’s products in the story. Otherwise it’s completely irrelevant! Product comes last because it really should be the smallest consideration in your story. Product still matters, though, because it gives your audience a tangible call to action.

When you craft an emotional, structured story, it transports your audience to another world. Connect with them at a deeper level through the four P’s.

The bottom line

The digital age has connected people like never before. To stand out from the crowd, your brand needs to embrace the power of storytelling. Tell real, raw stories that sell your brand while connecting with new customers by cutting through the noise.

About Nikki Carlson

Nikki Carlson is Co-Founder/Co-President of ChicBlvd Inc. which founded and owns three divisions -ChicBlvd Magazine (, ChicExecs Brand Strategist Firm and Fashion Audio LLC. She has over 16 years of experience in PR/Marketing. Soon after attaining a degree in Marketing, Nikki landed a job with Russ Reid Company, an advertising agency in Pasadena, CA. She rose through the ranks to an executive position where she managed clients in tv, radio, print, fundraising, website development, branding execution, and event sponsorship. Her main focus: non-profit and Christian companies including World Vision, Columbia House, Veggie Tales. After 5 years at Russ Reid, she served as an executive at Ambassador Advertising Agency managing clients including Compassion International, Breakpoint with Chuck Colson, author and speaker Jim Garlow. Her work included overseeing radio program initiatives from creative concept through execution. In 2004, she ventured out to pioneer ChicBlvd Inc using her creativity, entrepreneur passion and desire to give back by helping other businesses and getting involved in charity work.

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