Advertising · Public Relations · Storytelling

The power of storytelling in Public Relations


Once upon a time… Jaquelyne was waiting for her boyfriend John at their regular Starbucks cafe in Pennsylvania. She already had his favorite mocha coffee drink ready for whenever he arrived. But, for her amazement, he came into the coffee shop and surprised her with an engaging ring.

The most powerful Public Relations tool is stories. When you work in PR, you should start delivering more true stories related to brands, and stay away of talking about your business all the time. You will be surprised how focusing on others instead of the brand itself can increase the value of your company. We find a great example of this principle in the previous Starbucks story.

What is storytelling?

Storytelling is not a new concept. It started with the criers years and years ago making public announcements in the streets. Nowadays, it remains the same concept but transferred to business. It is known for brand storytelling.

But, what exactly is brand storytelling? It’s taking advantage of what happens to people that surround your brand and be able to turn it into a great story. A great example: Jacquelyn’s story from the beginning of this post. Starbucks realized, by a survey made in the States, that their coffee shops were a meeting point for a lot of people. The study also showed that true love stories took place at their locations.

They took this information and turned it into a campaign called “A Match Love Made Over Coffee” for Valentine’s Day. Starbucks invited their customers to share their love stories that happened at any Starbucks location, rewarding the winner with a trip to Vienna (the coffee capital of the world).

Why is it so powerful?

Storytelling is powerful because it invites customers to participate in and get involved with the brand. The brand is not the main character anymore, but your customers are. Making your customers contribute to the brand makes them feel important, therefore, they become more loyal.

IMPORTANT. The most common mistakes in brand storytelling are:

  • The main goal of storytelling in PR is not selling, is positioning the brand in consumers’ minds. “Marketing PR isn’t about the stuff you sell; it’s about the stories you tell.” as Seth Godin said.
  • The stories have to be believable. Don’t break the credibility of your audience or you will also break the credibility of the brand.

How to create a good story?

First of all, it is important to be familiar with the following terms: hero and plot. Hero is the proper name for the main character(s) in the story (going back to the Starbucks case: Jaquelyne and John are the heroes); while plot is the structure of the story.

In order to build an impacting plot, you will have to consider that it usually observes the same structure: beginning, problem, a journey to resolve, outcome and lesson learned. The beginning of the story has to introduce a problem. The goal of the problem is to engage readers right as they begin to read the story. The middle of the story shows the efforts that the hero is going though to solve the situation (this is what makes readers intrigued). And the most important thing is the ending. It has to be shocking to the audience. It has to impact to readers and it has to give them a promise of the lesson learned. Usually, this promise is a “moral” that can be easily remembered to make a connection with the brand.

Let’s take the Starbuck’s story bad and try to sum up concepts. They used the concept of “great love stories happen at Starbucks locations” and created a campaign based on this. After getting their customers involved by sharing their love stories with the brand, they wrote a press release explaining the initiative to the mass media. Like this, they could expand the campaign in the media and make it accessible for everyone. It’s a fun campaign where they involved their customers and they made them feel important for the brand. What is the smartest fact in this strategy? That Starbucks was behind the story but the main characters were their customers.

… And Jaquelyne and John got married, went to a vacation in Vienna and lived happily ever after.

The Starbucks story was taken from the book Storytelling: Branding in Practice by Klaus Fog,Christian Budtz,Philip Munch,Stephen Blanchette


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