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Connective Storytelling Through Video: PR’s Sweet Spot

April 2, 2019

“37 Staggering Video Marketing Statistics for 2018.”  “9 Proven Viral Marketing Techniques Every Successful Marketer is Following.” Who reads this crap?

I picture some poor soul, anxiously scrolling in the middle of the night, desperately seeking validation for a tactical video recommendation that he made earlier in the day to his boss. And she called him out on it, seeing no visible brand narrative and sensing no overall strategy in place.

The midnight scroller lives in the theatre of my mind, but we’ve all seen this happen. Reliant on listicles, not strategy. Rest assured, this will not be another blog telling you that video consumption is on the rise. Or that storytelling is the hot new business skill and marketing must-have. You already know this. We’re operating at a time when digital noise is masqueraded as useful content, leaving marketers challenged to slice through a fog of aggrandized messages and disconnected data to reach their consumer.

Modern communicators and marketers know there’s value in connective storytelling. Done well, video can be a brand’s lighthouse in the fog, addressing real consumer needs while striking balance between entertaining and educating. So what team, department, or agency do you trust to deliver brand messages that are authentic, sticky, engaging, shareable, and actionable?

Start with your PR agency or an internal team, provided they are curious, creative, and brave.

Of course, I’m biased, but let me explain why. PR is often described as part art and part science – a discipline that first succeeded by earning media attention through storytelling, it has evolved to thrive equally well in digital environments. Breaking through in the convergence era (collectively PESO – Paid, Earned, Shared, Owned) requires similar approaches: clear message development, creative storytelling, and smart targeting – depending on how and where your audience discovers and digests content.

Connective storytelling isn’t unique to Proof, obviously – a fact that was punctuated by my participation as a judge for the 2019 North America Sabre Awards just a few weeks ago. Organized and managed by the Holmes Report, this is a peer-reviewed event involving North America’s top communicators that recognize campaigns demonstrating the highest levels of strategic planning, creativity and business results. Demonstrating behaviour change impact on a brand or organization’s funnel is viewed as the top-shelf achievement.

What struck me the most while reviewing and discussing 75+ entries across my categories of Corporate Social Responsibility, Public Education, Sponsorship, and Reputation Management, is that no matter what the discipline, effective (and sometimes masterful) use of video continues to be the primary storytelling device. Whether carrying highly-creative-but-controlled brand anthems, shouldering the heavy lift of getting audiences engaged at the start of a keynote talk, or being heavily deployed across social to drive CTA’s, they punched above their weight in so many ways – and in a way that only video can when it’s guided by a clear narrative, consistent voice, and overarching strategy.

And while I’m proud that Proof and four of our clients have been named finalists in the Not-For-Profit, Associations, Pharmaceutical: Rx, and Cause-Related Marketing categories, a few of my personal favourites include:

1. #CoverThe Progress – Puerto Rico’s rise from its worst disaster to one of the fastest recoveries in tourism history

2. Beautyrest Presents: Max Richter’s SLEEP – bringing an alternative sleep discussion and experience to audiences in Austin and NYC

3. The Canadian Red Cross Connecting People In Times of Crisis – raising profile among millennials by making the connection between their support and the difference it can make in communities close to home

Connective storytelling can help reimagine how stories, information and entertainment are discovered, delivered, and consumed. So the next time your boss tells you “we need to make something that’ll go viral”, check in with your PR team to get a strategy, story, and creative production in place.  Storytelling has long been PR’s bread and butter, and while the format and delivery channels may have changed, the skillset required to succeed has not.