October 22, 2014

Creating Brand Stories – Narratives That Resonate with Consumers and Media

In a fast paced industry and quickly changing world, we are noticing now more than ever that we need create dialogue with audiences. Not just announce or post – but have a conversation. Press releases need to be supported by tweets and Facebook posts so that people are reached in real time and can respond and converse on the topic.

Adweek published a related article this week that we thought was worth sharing:


Creating Brand Stories
Buoyed by their narrative-building know-how, PR agencies are pushing hard to become the content marketing experts.

In today’s content-driven marketing world, public relations agencies have taken on a new role. As brands look to become storytellers, they need expertise in building narratives that will resonate with consumers and media alike, whether these stories are getting told via traditional media or through digital and social channels. They’re turning to PR agencies to become these de facto “story creators.”

For years, PR’s charter has been expanding from media and reputation management to shaping the conversations brands have directly with consumers. It has gone from managing the earned portion of the content equation to covering the dialogue brands are having with a wide range of influencers. Now that a growing number of brands are taking a content-first approach to their communications, PR is taking on owned media and is edging into paid by using its content expertise to build brand native advertising strategies.

All this has changed the toolkit PR uses. While press releases and media pitches may still be part of the package, agencies are more likely to be creating tweets, managing corporate Facebook accounts, producing YouTube videos or running brand newsrooms. In fact, according to the USC Annenberg School’s 2014 Public Relations Generally Accepted Practices study, the five most common media techniques and channels used by PR agencies today are: content created to be spread by social media; Twitter; production of online videos; Facebook; and newspapers. The Annenberg study also identifies channels that are on the rise, including editorial websites and multimedia content designed for mobile devices.

“Storytelling is the hot trend in marketing right now, but that’s what PR people have been doing since the practice started,” says Brad Buyce, EVP of Coyne Public Relations. “We’re well-versed in taking a bit of information or news and developing a robust narrative around it for an audience driving a credible and relevant connection for a brand.”

PR’s story-creation expertise has put it squarely in the middle of branded content programs and some of the largest agencies are going whole-hog into this arena. Edelman, for example, operates multiple “newsrooms” that work with clients to create brand-relevant stories and amplify them via appropriate earned, owned and paid channels. Its parent company DJE Holdings also recently inked a joint venture with Hollywood’s United Talent Agency to address “the growing demand for authentic and engaging content relevant to today’s consumer.” MSLGroup earlier this year launched a Culinary Content Studio, sort of a food-oriented newsroom that will create sharable digital content for its food and beverage clients. And Weber Shandwick’s Mediaco content marketing unit extends the firm’s content planning and creation efforts (which include running brand newsrooms for companies like Verizon) into paid media, giving it a voice in the native advertising area, not to mention access to media buying budgets that have usually bypassed PR.

Consider Ketchum’s work with ConAgra to reposition frozen foods to make them palatable to millennials who saw them as uncool and unhealthy. Taking a brand journalism approach, Ketchum produced a video of shoppers using wearable technology to make their supermarket shopping experience information-rich and efficient, while using ConAgra’s Healthy Choice and Marie Callendar’s brands within the narrative.

The video became the basis for publicity efforts—essentially using owned media to create earned. Still, the discussion was not about the taste of ConAgra’s products but the idea of what grocery shopping would be like in the near future. Because the video focused on the use of emerging technology, it generated buzz among key tech journalists—considered important influencers to the target. According to Ketchum, the campaign dispelled many frozen food misconceptions and increased consumer taste and quality perceptions for the ConAgra brands. And the video itself ended up with more than 2.6 million YouTube views in under a month.

“These days the stories are richer and more visual,” says Coyne’s Buyce. “Clients expect agencies from any discipline to think like purveyors of great content on the brand’s behalf and its up to us to find the stories that break through.”

The truth is, nothing engages a consumer more than a well-told story. And nothing alienates more than an ill-advised sales pitch. The PR industry’s understanding of this maxim is what is going to give it the chance to truly own content marketing.

“PR agencies have traditionally worked on creating stories that could pass through the filter of the media,” notes Kim Sample, CEO of New York-based PR agency Emanate. “We have very strong capabilities and knowledge about how we can tell a relevant brand story without making a commercial.”

In developing these narratives, PR agencies have frequently had to step in and help brands create the kinds of products that will stand apart for consumers and likely get media attention. Scottish distiller Jura launched its single-malt scotch in the U.S. without an ad campaign. Instead, it turned to its PR agency—Emanate—to create a story line that countered the stodgy reputation of the whisky and instead associated it with hipster millennials. Together, they came up with a “Jura Brooklyn” limited edition blend created with input from Kings County artisans like Bedford Cheese Shop, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn Brewery, Buttermilk Channel and Fine & Raw Chocolate.

The Brooklyn angle helped net Jura coverage in The New York Times and New York magazine. Following Jura Brooklyn’s June launch, the entire inventory of the product sold out within three days and several hundred new distribution points were secured (200 in Brooklyn alone). This set the stage a national launch in August, all at a CPM that was 15 percent of the industry norm.

See original article here: http://www.adweek.com/sa-article/creating-brand-stories-160842

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