Guest blog by Mike Sergeant, author of ‘PR for Humans: How Business Leaders Tell Powerful Stories’
At Delineate, we believe that there’s an art to storytelling with data, and it’s why we share valuable insights in a way that’s readable, engaging and human.
So, when we had the opportunity to work with Mike Sergeant, former BBC Correspondent and author, on the launch of his book PR for Humans: how business leaders tell powerful stories – we grabbed it.
Watch Mike and fellow panellists Farzana Baduel, Founder and CEO of Curzon PR, Meglena Petkova, Managing Director of Finsbury and James (JT) Turner, Founder and CEO of Delineate, discuss the all-important question: Does PR have a problem?
The 6 Elements of a Powerful Business Story
By Mike Sergeant, Author of PR for Humans (available on Amazon).
For the whole sweep of human history, stories have been part of every triumph and every disaster.
Those with the ability to assemble powerful stories – fact and fiction – have changed nations and companies. They’ve hacked the path of history.
Our brains our wired for stories. Stories played a crucial role in the emergence of our species.
The story of civilisation IS the story of stories.
The best stories are human stories. They are about people. Stories about legal constructs (companies, governments, charities) aren’t by themselves engaging enough.
We want to know about the people leading them, the people supplying them, the people employed in them and ultimately the people (customers, stakeholders) they are trying to reach.
The human lens is critical for storytelling, PR and powerful communications.
But ask a room full of 10 people what a ‘story’ is (or should be) and you get 10 different answers.
‘Storytelling’ is in danger of becoming one of those vague concepts (like ‘authenticity’) that are hard to be against, but hard also to coach.
When I work with CEOs and business leaders, I use a concept I call the Story Summit. In a good story, there’s a journey. Here are the 6 Cs I think are the key ingredients:
The foundation of story is character. The best stories have one (main) character focus. We need to know WHAT the character wants and WHY they want it.
The main character has a challenge. There’s somewhere they need to get to or something they want to achieve. The challenge can’t be easy and ideally the stakes should be high.
Someone or something is typically stopping them getting what they want. There is a conflict. It’s not all easy or straightforward. There is some tension. There may be an actual villain or something more abstract (like bureaucracy) holding them back.
Crisis isn’t necessary for all stories – but engaging drama usually has a moment when all seems lost. The main character faces a massive test. In some stories this is when they hit ‘rock bottom’. In other stories it’s simply a moment of heightened challenge and emotion.
There is a spark that gets the character beyond the crisis. They come up with an idea that solves a problem. They pick themselves up off the floor. Someone or something is the inspiration for change. The framework of a solution is realised.
The story is resolved in some way. The character conquers. The challenge is over. The conflict is settled. The arc needs to end.
Take any movie, play or novel and you will see most or all of the 6 Cs in action.
In business storytelling, just like the best directors do in Hollywood, we need to tighten the narrative massively before it’s ready for an audience. There are usually hundreds or thousands of different routes we could take with the story.
Knowing which path to go down requires some hard thinking about the values and mission of the business. We also need the best possible insights about the audience we are trying to reach. What do we want them to think, feel and do? Why and where do we want to move them?
A good story is always honed with the audience in mind.
So, simplify and craft. But also have fun! Stories don’t have to be heavy and worthy. Some of the best are light and irreverent.
And, as you simplify, don’t lose the specific details than make stories special and memorable.
In storytelling, those little details are often the jewels in the sand.
PR for Humans: how business leaders tell powerful stories is available on Amazon now.
How Delineate are using stories.
By being able to deliver research insights as a story worth telling, we’re changing the way market research has always been done. We even shape our research projects to ensure we’re able to deliver the most interesting insights, especially in whitepapers.
As an example, take a look at the whitepaper we wrote in collaboration with the Art Fund – Calm and Collected.