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Listen up here’s a story

Posted by Darren Willsher on 23rd September 2013

Last week I was at a PR Moment conference looking at the role of public relations as a content provider.

If you missed out then the folks at Mynewsdesk have put together a Storify from the event.

For some, storytelling is what good PR is all about already. Surely any decent PR will already consider themselves a storyteller of sorts, helping clients to find out what their company has been up to and why it might be interesting.

Yet I’ve seen enough journalists complaining that PRs are getting too clever with stories and headlines and that they just want us to present the facts and leave the rest to them.

So what is the role of PR?

In the first session MoneySuperMarket explained how it now has a 16-strong editorial team to produce content for its website –  a completely separate team to the PR, advertising and SEO functions. That’s a massive investment in producing content directly aimed at its audience.

This is where things have changed, people are still getting information from the ‘traditional’ media but they’re also going direct to companies and sticking questions into Google. If that directs them to a company with an interesting post then that’s where they’ll end up.

This isn’t a consumer sell either. In the b2b tech PR world where we do most of our work, producing great content intended directly for your target audience is something we’ve been doing for years (we even produced a guide on the topic), but it’s getting much more popular and the last set of changes from Google have only accelerated the process.

What’s clear is that more and more companies are realising great content can be beneficial.

This is good news as it’s forcing people to think of something a bit better than a boring incremental press release to get some attention. But it also worries me.

As my colleague Ian pointed out recently, the press release is still fundamentally a decent thing. It’s just that it got ruined by people writing one every five minutes and sending them out to everyone they could contact.

With more companies starting to produce their own content there’s a risk that people will just regurgitate marketing or sales material in the hope that it translates quickly into sales. What united all the speakers at the conference was how they had carefully tailored the content they were producing to fit with their audience.

As a result they’d been successful, whether that was in sales in the case of Capgemini or turning around a crisis situation at o2 – and this is what PR people need to bear in mind when they’re producing content. Storytelling is about telling the right story to the right people.


An example of excellent story telling.

photo credit: ginnerobot

Darren Willsher

Darren has been with Wildfire for six years and is one of the driving forces behind the agency’s telecoms and networking portfolio, with experience working on a range of international, multi-channel accounts including CSR, Picochip (now Mindspeed), Real Wireless, The Small Cell Forum, Samsung and Allied Telesis.