Corporate storytelling is an essential future PR skill

The problem with a 140 character tweet or six second Vine is that it’s impossible to tell a great story.

For sale - Baby's shoes. Never worn. graphic

However as Ernest Hemingway purportedly demonstrated with his six word story to win a bet – “For Sale: Baby’s shoes, never worn.” – you can if you’re creative enough.

At just 35 characters, including punctuation, you could fit “For Sale: Baby’s shoes, never worn.” into a tweet three times and still have 34 characters to spare.

I’m not advocating that every PR professionals needs the literary flair of Hemingway, the pictorial perfection of Picasso or the screen sparkle of Spielberg, just that we get much better at telling stories.

Paul Holmes, founder of the eponymous The Holmes Report, has a great line about how advertising people are brilliant at making up stories and telling them well and PR people are fantastic at finding real stories, but aren’t good enough at telling them. We now live in an age when people want more truth and authenticity, so it should be the time of the true stories of PR people, but we still haven’t got good enough at telling them. Instead advertising people have misappropriated PR’s true stories and called it content marketing.

John Cleese said “Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.” There are many ways that PR professionals can learn to be more creative operators. There is much that we can learn from the world of art and literature.

We can learn the difference between a story and a plot. Or know about the seven basic plots.

Think how much more compelling a story about yet another mobile app start-up becomes if it’s about overcoming the monster of an incumbent corporate cartel, or the rags to riches story of its founder, or her quest to be the best, which needed a voyage and return to achieve, with comedy and tragedy along the way, all after a traumatic rebirth.

So if you’re a public relations, corporate communications or public affairs professional how will you change your way of operating to become a better corporate storyteller?