This blog post is part two of a series. Read part one here.
While the gap in online vs. TV news quickly narrows, the public relations profession is in the midst of a major transformation. As communicators well know, the rules of the game have changed, and proactive, out-of-the-box strategic thinking is required. The days of “Put me on the cover of The Wall Street Journal,” have evolved to “Share a social media post that goes viral!” While the medium may have changed, one thing remains constant: the demand for great content. But what exactly qualifies as ‘great’?
In the race for killer content, compelling stories always win. Think about some of the great storytellers of our age: Steve Jobs was a master at sharing stories to inspire innovation and risk-taking in order to change the world. Sheryl Sandberg shared her experience with grief following the untimely death of her husband, to educate and enlighten others going through similar challenges. Richard Branson uses stories to build brands and achieve buy-in. Bill and Melinda Gates launch movements to help humanity. Oprah Winfrey motivates, relates, teaches, and inspires. The common denominator: it all begins with compelling content.
Less is more. Content doesn’t have to be lengthy to be compelling. It can be as simple as a great photo, or a 15-second video shared on social media that goes viral around the globe. Content that works is engaging, timely, relevant, and concise. For example, one photo of a house encased in ice on Lake Ontario shared on social media became a global sensation in seconds. The now infamous “Ice House” was covered by every major news network around the world, plus Fallon, and Kimmel! And it all started with a great photo (I would know—the photographer just happens to be my husband).
Traditional, one-dimensional storytelling is no longer relevant. The one-off lead story in a national media outlet is quickly being eclipsed by a multimedia approach to creating owned content that maximizes reach and engagement. Innovative, multifaceted ways to tell stories are required.
A prime example of a creative approach to great multimedia storytelling is The New York Times’ Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek. It the harrowing story of a group of skiers who risked it all to ski the fresh powder back trails of Cowboy Mountain in Washington State, with tragic results. A masterful combination of narrative, video, audio, graphics, and animation take you to the back-country Tunnel Creek section of Stevens Pass— and the result is breathtaking. The critically acclaimed story won a Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing. Memorable stories make a connection with their audience.
The number one trait for great storytellers is curiosity. That desire to know more drives the storyteller to proactively seek the extraordinary among the ordinariness of daily life, seen through the camera lens, the keyboard, the infographic—the media are many, but the common thread is curiosity.
In the spirit of inquiry, communicators need to be proactive in seeking stories of relevance, thinking creatively about how to tell them, and following our instincts. In the end, regardless of the medium, compelling content is always king.
by Charla Kucko
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