Sound Insights on Storytelling and Branding at Communications Week

Telling brand stories may seem simple, but far more goes on behind the scenes than many realize. Creating “aha” moments, integrating messages across platforms and navigating multiple agencies can often seem daunting. Just when you think all is clear, newer tools like Whisper and SoundCloud make both literal and figurative noise.

The complex art of storytelling was the topic at a Communications Week panel Thursday night in New York.

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L to R  – Moderator Patrick Coffee (Senior Editor, Mediabistro), Brendan Murphy (Senior Partner, Design, Lippincott), Tiffany Guarnaccia (Founder, Kite Hill PR), Shoshana Winter (Executive Planning Director, Digital Integration, mcgarrybowen), Pam Workman (CEO, Workman Group Communications), Tyler Gray (Editorial Director, Creative Newsroom, Edelman)Andrew Fingerman (Media Director, MRY)

The event was hosted by Workman Group, creative comms industry group ADC was the venue partner, and the entire undertaking was organized by Communications Week.

PRNewser’s very own editor Patrick Coffee moderated, and panelists represented a mix of PR, digital and brand marketing agencies:

LippincottBrendan Murphy, senior partner, design
EdelmanTyler Gray, editorial director, creative newsroom
mcgarrybowenShoshana Winter, executive planning director, digital integration
MRYAndrew Fingerman, media director

Below are key takeaways and selected comments about the challenges of modern storytelling — and what’s next on the horizon.

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L to R – ModeratorPatrick Coffee (Senior Editor, Mediabistro), Brendan Murphy (Senior Partner, Design, Lippincott), Shoshana Winter (Executive Planning Director, Digital Integration, mcgarrybowen), Tyler Gray (Editorial Director, Creative Newsroom, Edelman), Andrew Fingerman (Media Director, MRY)

On the many dimensions of storytelling:

“It’s an ongoing process, to make sure messages remain true to the brand and translate in a way that audiences can relate to. Since consumers can experience storytelling at any time, we need to plan and be ready for potential outcomes, even crises.” (Fingerman)

“It takes something hard to do and makes it seem childlike. The biggest challenge is to create emotionally resonant narratives that keep recipients listening.” (Winter)

“It’s the system and process for making connections to other human beings.” (Gray)

“Storytelling has two levels: positioning companies and brands, and the experiences we create. The first entails visual systems and apps, and the second involves what customers go through on a daily basis.” (Murphy)

On the importance of creating and maintaining strategic ideas:

“Sometimes with digital you just extend existing ideas, but our agency develops master branding strategies with big organizing ideas that can scale to any brand.” (Winter)

“If every agency had insights at the beginning of the process, the world would be less noisy.” (Gray)

“Now we don’t just do branding projects and move on to the next client, instead we have 10- year relationships with clients and work with them as they evolve.” (Murphy)

On the best ways to spread stories so they get heard:

“Join more conversations than you start, so stories are designed from the bottom up and are shareable. Then later you can join in and steer conversations in a different direction.” (Gray)

“Increasingly it’s not marketers who control brands; that belongs to other departments, including digital and HR, so now it’s important to connect to the entire organization to see where true experiences and stories take place.” (Murphy)

“PR helps you gain credibility, and messages must be delivered at the right moments, but the hardest part is coming up with what’s most compelling to begin with.” (Winter)

“Consumers are less trusting of digital ads, so social media and PR are both key. We all need to translate our work to the proper channels.” (Fingerman)

On the challenges of integrating comms plans across agencies:

“We all must execute against and stay true to that character on an ongoing basis…creative tension drives the brand forward.” (Murphy)

“It’s harder for large companies to maintain consistent brand messages across agencies given the size of their marketing programs. Now everyone competes and the playing field has leveled. There are no longer clear lines as there was when advertising ruled. The agencies each want what’s best for brands and consumers, but it’s challenging.” (Winter)

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Tyler Gray (Editorial Director, Creative Newsroom, Edelman), Andrew Fingerman (Media Director, MRY)

On identifying emerging platforms:

“…platforms like SoundCloud will be the next untapped frontier.” (Gray)

“We see opportunities in video brand engagement at the employee level.” (Murphy)

On the changing relationships between agencies:

What do we think, readers? What are our takeaways regarding an industry that’s moving “beyond communications?”

Note: For an example of how ad agency CP+B in Copenhagen, Denmark used SoundCloud to hold a rap contest for a headphones client, check out this link.

[Pics via Chris Taylor Studio]