Weber Shandwick EVP Offers Three Tips for Good Storytelling

Last week, Weber Shandwick introduced a new “storytelling system” that will act as a framework for distributing content in the appropriate format to the right destinations. “Content Fusion” comes with its own website, white paper, and video to explain the method behind the madness.

It’s not just Weber that’s focused on the art of telling a good story. Lots of PR pros tell PRNewser that having a good story to tell and telling it well are a big part of their job.

We asked David Krejci, EVP of digital communications at Weber Shandwick, three questions via email about Content Fusion and the elements of a good story.

Check out the Q&A after the jump.

PRNewser: What are the top three qualities of a good story?

David Krejci: Unique – A company talking about itself must say something new, preferably fresh and not in a way that’s rote, bland, or inane. Every company, just like every individual, does have something unique about it. The question is whether it’s brave enough to share it or has the savvy to find it.

Human – Good stories have always required a human core to hold readers, but it’s truer than ever now that social networking has put our communicative instincts into overdrive. Today, people have ready, free access to virtually everyone they’ve ever met. This has created perhaps unrealistic expectations for companies and other groups to act more social, more human – dare I say unbuttoned? – in formal circles than they would have even considered as recently as a decade ago. And they have to go along, no question. Any of us can now address, yell at, praise or question any company or other elite at any time, potentially for the benefit of an audience in the millions, via social media. This open door to the “corporate office” feeds consumers’ sense of entitlement to a personal relationship with those organizations that affect their lives. Given these two factors, when a company speaks – when it tells a story – it had better be human in tone and content or it will fall flat.

Conflict/Resolution – The old storytelling foundation still holds its place at center stage for our attention. Shakespeare knew it. So do authors of religious texts, political manifestos and soap operas. A story without a conflict/resolution dynamic is a wickless candle.

PRNewser: How is Content Fusion different from Weber’s previous approach to storytelling?

DK: It isn’t different. It’s just a richer expression of what we (and many others) have been doing for years. Through the rapid rise of social media, Weber Shandwick has helped clients tell stories in multiple formats (text, graphics, photography, audio and video) and to insert those formats into multiple vehicles (blog posts, news releases, FAQs, slideshows, whitepapers, videos, rss feeds, emails, etc.) and to drive those vehicles into multiple destinations (Facebook, websites, blogs, Twitter, events, seminars, YouTube, Slideshare, Scribd, etc.). Obviously, not every story requires video or needs to be tweeted or otherwise splintered. But a lot of them can be brought to many more lives than in the past, when we lived in a media world of words and pictures to and from a handful of sources.

Lest we forget, companies and others shouldn’t “do social media” or Content Fusion or even a news release for its own sake. A story must tie back to business goals and strategies, which in turn must be based on some customer stake. Why readers and viewers should care ought to be implicit if not explicit in any company story. Otherwise it’s just a yarn.

PRNewser: How do you make a story more social?

DK: The same way you make yourself more social. You get out more, right? Find a bunch of places where people like you congregate, then go there and mingle. The same theory applies to a story. First, find your social channels so you have a place to go. The list is not intimidating: Facebook, a blog, and Twitter are going to get you to Storyville just fine. But be strategic in your choice of venues. LinkedIn has immense value for certain audiences, particularly in the B2B arena. YouTube is an obviously great platform for many.

It must be said, however, that the word “story” is the key here. What is a story in the context of Content Fusion? It could be a lengthy piece of vaccine research that requires 70 slides in a deck or 30 pages in a doc. Or it could be three sentences about a brief encounter the CEO had at a hot dog stand in Madrid. Both have their uses to a company seeking to engage and hold an audience. A good news release can still tell a story, but one about which you should ask yourself: How else can this be told? In what formats, driven by what vehicles and distributed where?