The tables quickly filled up in the conference room, and participants chatted eagerly about the day’s event as they flipped through the pamphlets. Tales of past conferences were swapped by rookies and veterans alike. The words “Storytelling. Storymaking. Storydoing.” were emblazoned across the ballroom’s ceiling. Everyone had gathered here for one reason; to master the art of storytelling.
The 2014 Portland Communicators Conference may be over, but the insights and takeaways still remain. Focused exclusively on storytelling, the conference had a slew of innovative and interesting keynote and session speakers who stressed the importance of always telling a good story.
Jim Olson, VP of global communications for Starbucks, kicked off the conference with a keynote that emphasized the importance of highlighting the humanity behind your story and utilizing visuals to focus your reader on the message. He had several key points and pointed to Starbucks for his prime examples.
- Public relations continues to evolve. Even though press releases are still required, they don’t have to be traditional. He suggested pairing a press release with a man-on-the street video or short profile stories. By pairing the press release with these additional media, your release will be brought to life and the message will have a better chance of sticking with your audience.
- Create a dedicated news handle on Twitter where journalists can easily access your press releases, announcements and other important company information.
- Create a news section on your brand’s website that displays large images and videos that help put a face to your writing.
Tight, focused, and with plenty of examples that emphasized Starbucks’ growth in the storytelling world, Olson wrapped up his keynote by explaining that it’s not just about telling your story, it’s how you position it.
I particularly enjoyed the session on “How to Become a Master Storyteller,” led by Melissa Havel, executive vice president of Waggner Edstrom. She explained that while almost anything can be a story, it’s not worth talking about if it doesn’t leave an impact. This key point is pivotal if you want to cut through all of the other brand noise and connect to your readers. A few additional key points I found useful were:
- Word-of-mouth is always more powerful than any ad.
- Our brains are hard-wired for stories, but in order to cut through all of the brand noise, you have to ask yourself, “What can I do to make my story a pass-along story?”
- While your story should always be unique and relevant on individual channels, each facet of your story should contribute to the master narrative.
The lunch keynote, run by Jim Signorelli, author of Storybranding, was another invigorating session full of laughs and ideas that resonated with me. His unique keynote session went beyond storytelling – to teach the audience how to do storybranding. He pointed out that humans are willing to give up a lot for stories, and if your brand tells an emotional and effective story, that story will rub off on the brand itself. People will begin to associate your brand with the story and the emotions the story conveyed, like with the many heartwarming Bud Light commercials. His three major points of the keynote:
- Storybranding is an all-in process – everyone should be on board and willing to do whatever it takes to tell stories and make them stick to the brand.
- Every customer touch-point is a chapter of your brand’s story – regardless of where they are in the purchasing decision, there is always an emotional story to tell.
- If you have a birth certificate, you are a brand.
Overall, the conference was filled with new ideas and important lessons.
So, what was my biggest takeaway?
Although storytelling has evolved from cave paintings on a wall, we are still willing to huddle around a campfire to listen if the story resonates with us.