We’ve been in the natural storytelling business for years. From a marketing perspective PR is the original storyteller. Way before advertising agencies were building out ‘creative’ targeted audience narratives, PR was carefully crafting stories based on things that were actually happening within the organisation. Even after digital and social came along, B2B PR agencies were still better placed to refine and define those brand building, brand awareness, brand personality stories that work whichever channel they were pushed out over.
So why are (or should) PR be at the heart of storytelling? Simply because it specialises in packaging stories for the toughest audience around – the media. If those stories are able to stand up to media scrutiny, then that story can also deliver directly to your customer and stakeholder audience as well.
Like many B2B PR agencies, Skout has refined its approach to storytelling for clients. We formalised our foraging process (uncovering the real stories within a business) so it’s easy for our clients to understand and see the direct benefits. Foraging is increasingly important as audiences become more and more sophisticated, and hit with more and more content from different sources. A consumer’s ability to sift through and disregard content and messaging that they consider to be poorly targeted, dishonest or fabricated has grown. As a consequence, brands need to look internally for the genuine, honest and natural stories that already exist within their business.
Skout’s foraging process begins by getting under the skin of an organisation. Interviews with a diverse cross section of employees – from the receptionist up to the CEO, from the sales and marketing team across to engineering and the shop floor – enables us to really get understand what makes the organisation tick. Interviewing a broad section staff lets Skout really see who the company is, its culture, how it sees itself, all the while unearthing interesting stories to support brand awareness and building.
We then turn our gaze outwards to key stakeholders. Interviews with partners, shareholders and customers inevitably unearths a number of disconnects between how the client views itself and how the rest of the world see it. Yet often at the heart of these disconnects, lie stories that can be used to support brand messages rather than detract from them.
Then it’s on to desk research. Who are the client’s competitors? What’s happening in the marketplace? What developments are having an impact on the product, customer or industry?
Skout uses all of its research internal and external to identify and develop clear storylines. Each story is evaluated using a number of factors. Firstly we look at its ability to support marketing objectives and how it will fit within existing marketing plans. Sometimes it’s worth creating a new campaign around a single story even if there had been no previous plans to do so.
Once the list has been narrowed down, Skout then reviews each storyline against its Triple A (advocacy, authority, advisory) methodology. This provides a process for identifying the best way to create the story content in order for it to match potential customers’ needs at different stages of the sales cycle. For example, perhaps a partner identified a new tangible ROI gain. This could be used to create an ‘advisory’ online calculator tool that be pushed out though social media.
Once the Triple A process is complete, Skout details all of the outcomes in a foraging report. In it our clients can easily see each storyline recommendation, how it will be developed, the type of content asset it will become, which marketing channel will be used to disseminate it, the marketing objective it fulfils and a measurement outcome.
This was the approach that we took for our client vielife. A global health and well being provider, vielife had tasked us with increasing brand awareness in the UK across a number of different audiences. We analysed its internal data to spot sleep-based trends amongst its customers. We used the resulting stories to build out different angles for the business, national and HR press, and achieved coverage in The Observer and The Guardian amongst others.
For many organisations, storytelling is often viewed as a dark or fine art. At Skout we believe that this shouldn’t be the case. Storytelling needs to be worked into your marketing plans as a strategic platform that can be analysed and measured as easily as the next marketing campaign. At Skout we’re natural foragers. If you’re interested to hear how we can forage in your organisation, please get in touch.
Claire Lamb has worked in technology PR for 20 years and has survived more bubbles than Michael Jackson.