Brand Storytelling

How to devise a story strategy for an in-house PR team

15 Minute Read
By Ciara Byrne

Table of contents:

  • Introduction
  • The six-step Magic Slice process
  • Finding the right media contacts to connect with your audience
  • How to control your own narrative
  • Conclusion
  • Points to ponder

 

Introduction

Devising an all-encompassing strategic direction for your brand provides a reference point for every story that is sent to the media. It is essential for any in-house PR team to devise a strong core brand message that leads any public discussion around the brand. Knowing your core ‘why’ and clearly defining what you do and who you do it for leads to consistent messaging, trust within your audience and successful PR. 

When coming up with a story strategy for your brand, it is important to frame the discussion around a series of questions that will give you an overview of the brand as a whole. Knowing the why behind your product, as well as your main selling points and future goals will help you to come up with definitive messaging around your brand. Once this has been set, you are in motion to begin developing a solid story strategy for your brand as an in-house PR team collective. 

Finding your ‘Magic Slice’ will create the perfect structure for determining a new story strategy for your in-house PR team. There is a six step process to finding your company’s Magic Slice, which will be examined throughout this piece. 

 

Here are five questions that you should consider when creating a story strategy for your brand:

  1. What are the three main selling points of your services, products or brand?
  2. What is your company’s story?
  3. What do you want to accomplish with your story strategy?
  4. Why does your company exist?
  5. What is a major goal that you are working towards achieving?

 

Figuring out why you do what you do is a great place to begin when coming up with a story strategy. It is advisable to run workshops with collective teams within your organisation and the CEO or founder, who will be able to give a deep insight into the why behind the company. Including founding members and the CEO will provide insight into why and how the brand was created which will influence the mission and keep it in line with the core meaning of the company. 

Once you know the why of your company, consider the why of your story strategy. Why are you putting together a strategy and what are you hoping to achieve from it? The why of your communications could be to raise awareness, generate sales or inform the public of news or an announcement. The purpose of a story strategy is to generate noise and attract attention to your brand or company. There are multiple methods of getting your message across to your audience via traditional media, social media and online creators. Once you have established your why, it is time to move on to the gritty details of your story strategy.

 

The six-step Magic Slice process

The Magic Slice’ is an amazon best-selling book and a concept devised by MediaHQ CEO Jack Murray. Its aim is to find the perfect place between what you want to say and what your audience wants to hear. Taking the time to find the Magic Slice of your brand and coming up with the main topics that you want to cover is a great way to build a story strategy. Once you have completed the six-step Magic Slice process, you will be aligned with your company’s mission and vision and have a clear step-by-step guide on the topics that you cover and an in-depth knowledge of your target audience. 

 

The six-step Magic Slice process is as follows:

  1. Find a mission and articulate it.
  2. Tune into your different audiences.
  3. Create your Magic Slice topics for stories.
  4. Create your Magic Slice statement.
  5. Generate compelling stories.
  6. Revise and edit your stories in the light of experience and the changing environment.

For more information on the Magic Slice, check out ‘The Magic Slice: How to Master the Art of Storytelling for Business’.

 

Step 1: Finding your mission

Creating your mission and building your statement should be the next step in the process when putting your story strategy together. Finding your mission and articulating it is the first step in the ‘Magic Slice’ process. Your mission will uncover why you exist and what you are trying to achieve as a brand or a company. It is essential that your mission statement is clear and easy to understand and communicate. Your mission should be easily recognisable as your own and stand out from your competitors. It should be written in simple language and be kept short and to the point. The key to developing a great story strategy is knowing your mission, purpose and the reason you exist. The ability to remain authentic and believable in your mission statement and across your communications in general will feed a narrative of trust between your brand and your desired audience. 

An example of a great mission is that of Warby Parker, which expands across a few paragraphs, but can be distilled into its opening line:

‘To offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.’

This is then followed by a brief summary which provides insight and clarity on the company and what it is about. A compelling mission should define who you are and what you do in plain English while allowing you to stand out from the crowd.

 

Some advice on creating an authentic mission:

  • Be specific about your business or work. 
  • Keep it short and sweet – it should be no longer than a paragraph.
  • Make it unique to your organisation.

 

Step 2: Defining your audience

When creating your mission statement, it is also important to consider who your audience is and what they want to hear from you. An audience can be defined as a group of people who watch, read, consume or listen to the same thing. Taking the audience into account will make mission-based communications more effective in the long run. If the mission statement reflects who your audience is, it will feed into wider discussion around your brand. Defining your audience will allow you to easily incorporate messaging into your mission statement and Magic Slice topics that reflect what they want to hear.

In order to cater towards your audience, you first need to define who they are. A great way to do this is by putting together an audience profile looking at the typical age range, gender and location. From here, it is easy to categorise your audience and feed this information into your mission statement. This can also be a great way of discovering which media contacts to reach out to with press releases, as having a clear audience profile can act as a driving force behind researching media lists

You will often have both internal and external audiences to connect with. Internal audiences can include employees, investors and directors. External audiences can include the media, your customers and suppliers. Michael Walsh of Dubarry Shoes said about the importance of defining your audience:

‘If we are going to manufacture shoes that women love, we have to understand everything about how they think.’

 

Here are some helpful tips on defining your audience:

  • Describe your target audience in a sentence.
  • What are the defining characteristics of your audience? ie. traits, daily habits, age, gender, hobby, occupation?
  • What or who are their main influences?
  • What are their pain points and how do you counteract them?

 

Using social media to communicate with your audience

Social media is a free tool that can be utilised to connect you with both journalists and your target audience. Having a team member responsible for keeping up with current social media trends, utilising them for your brand and engaging with your target audience and customers is a great way to increase your brand awareness. Consumerism via social media and digital means has taken off over the last number of years and hopping onto current trends that target your audience can provide a major boost to your sales and word of mouth referrals. 

From TikTok, to LinkedIn and Twitter, there are many platforms that can be utilised when sharing your stories or stories from clients. Including social media as a key tool when developing a story strategy is essential. If you have clients with a niche market, they can stand out by coming up with original content and sharing it across their social media platforms.

 

Step 3: Creating your Magic Slice topics

Creating your Magic Slice topics will allow you to have a framework around which to base your story strategy. Your Magic Slice topics will be a distilled version of the topics and stories that your brand covers. To find these topics, you will need to divide these into six sub-groups that encapsulate your unique story as a brand. The topics that you choose should give you definition and structure to base your story strategy around. 

 

An example for creating your Magic Slice topics would be as follows:

Imagine that you run the in-house PR team for a healthy bakery. This is a unique business and you want to choose topics that reflect both what you do and help you to stand out in the market. Your story topics might be as follows:

  1. Healthy bread recipes.
  2. The history of brown bread.
  3. Great ingredients. 
  4. The life of a pastry chef.
  5. Bread of the week.
  6. Stand-out sandwiches.

These six topics will provide the framework for every story that you put out about your bakery.

Things to consider when choosing your Magic Slice topics:

  1. What are you selling?
  2. What are the biggest trends happening in your industry currently?
  3. What do people search for? 
  4. What makes you stand out from the crowd?
  5. What do you value the most?

 

Exercises to help you to find your Magic Slice topics:

  • What is your product or service?
  • What are three exciting things that are happening in your industry right now?
  • What are three things that make your brand stand out?
  • What are the things you value the most in how you deliver your story?
  • Revisit your mission and incorporate it into your topics.

 

Step 4: Creating your Magic Slice statement

Your Magic Slice statement is a short paragraph that encapsulates your brand and conveys your Magic Slice. It should include your mission, target customer, what makes you stand out and the topics that your stories are about. 

 

Steps to take when writing your Magic Slice statement:

  1. Begin by writing down your mission statement.
  2. Write a description of your target customer.
  3. Write down your values and the elements that make you unique.
  4. List your Magic Slice topics.

When you have finished this, blend them together into a paragraph. You will have your completed Magic Slice statement which blends what you do with who you are targeting. Taking the healthy bakery analogy as an example again, this is what your Magic Slice statement might look like:

Organic Living is an organic bakery. It’s mission is to make healthy eating more enjoyable by bringing organic, sustainable and healthy baked goods to the market. It is driven to help both those who are health conscious and those looking to implement healthier habits to make an easy yet delicious change in the right direction. Not only are its ingredients organic, but they are sustainably sourced. Organic Living is a proudly zero waste shop. Its stories are about healthy bread recipes, the history of brown bread, great ingredients, the life of a pastry chef, bread of the week and stand-out sandwiches.

 

Step 5: Generating compelling stories

After you have written your mission statement, chosen your Magic Slice topics and put together your Magic Slice statement, you can then move on to creating stories with your mission at the heart of them. The good news is that after doing the hard work in the previous steps, it will be easy to come up with poignant story ideas that reflect your brand. 

Three distinctly important elements of a good story are the elements, structure and form. Good writing is also essential and your stories should conform to a style guide that is circulated and used across the company. Ensuring that every story that comes from your brand is consistent will mean you are more likely to get media coverage, as you will become a reliable source for journalists looking to cover new stories. When creating stories for your brand or clients, ensure that they are SEO optimised and include keywords to help out with your Google Search ranking. Take some time to come up with a great headline and have a raw story idea in your mind. This will be a great help in forming your story. 

Using the example of Organic Living, here are some story ideas that might come from their ‘great ingredients’ Magic Slice topic:

  1. Flaxseed and its benefits for digestion.
  2. How adding pumpkin seeds to your bread can boost brainpower.
  3. Cacao nibs: Chocolate that’s good for the heart.
  4. The hidden power of hemp seed in baking.
  5. 5 ways to boost your breakfast with oats.
  6. How buckwheat flour is changing the gluten-free game.

 

Step 6: Revising and editing your stories

Revising and editing your stories comes after you have created a solid mission statement, come up with six Magic Slice topics and written your first stories. As the media and PR industry is incredibly fast-paced and ever-changing, it is necessary to come back to your stories when needed and update them to reflect the changing environment. You also build your writing skills and adapt to the brand’s style guide the more that you write. Revising older stories to keep them relevant will result in stronger brand perception and will ensure that the hard work you put into writing these stories will be rewarded with sustainable readership. 

Here are some things to consider when revising and editing your stories:

  • Investing time into stories that your audience wants to hear will give longevity and credibility to your communications. 
  • The more that you understand your audience, the more poignant your stories will be. 
  • Utilising topics that set you apart from competitors and keeping your stories fresh and relevant will help to boost your brand awareness and trust.

 

Finding the right media contacts to connect with your audience

Once you have established who your audience is and spent some time coming up with your Magic Slice topics and story ideas, the next step is to find the right media contacts who will communicate your story with your audience. Choosing the right contacts and building media relations is an integral part of creating a sustainable and effective story strategy for your in-house PR team. Building media relations with journalists who cater to your desired audience will mean more coverage in the long term, as well as having reliable contacts in the media for future campaigns or press releases. 

When working with clients, you will need to source contacts who cover different topics and in various forms of media, depending on desired audience reach. The easiest way to do this is by using a media contacts database of journalists and others in the media and searching through them by the topics that they cover. This will allow you to easily source the contacts that fit your brief and add them to various lists to target your audiences. 

 

How to control your own narrative

When devising a story strategy for your in-house PR team, controlling the narrative of your brand and your clients plays a major role in how you are perceived in the media. Once you have a strong mission statement, it is important to reflect it throughout all of your communications with journalists. This aids in building strong media relations as it builds trust and consistency between brands and journalists. 

Some tips on controlling your own narrative:

  1. Develop awareness of your company by interviewing customers on a regular basis.
  2. Strive to make actionable change quietly that is reflected externally.
  3. Create a clear vision and mission of what you do and who you are for. 
  4. Take advice from the people who have your best interest at heart.
  5. Ensure that you include your mission at the heart of your communications and keep your messaging consistent.

 

Conclusion

Having a solid story strategy will allow your communications to stay consistent and organised while sharing stories that really matter. Using a method like the Magic Slice to discover your target audience, mission and the topics that your stories will cover is a great way to develop a story strategy, as it provides actionable steps and results in a conclusive plan that can be easily implemented into your communications. Discovering your audience will give you a clear-cut view of the types of media contacts that you will need to add to your lists. Having a strong mission statement, Magic Slice topics and a style guide will ensure that your communications remain consistent across the board, leading to increased and higher quality coverage for you and your clients.

 

Points to ponder

  • Does your company have a solid mission statement and vision?
  • Do you interlace your mission statement into your external communications?
  • Do you have a clear outline of who your audience is?
  • Have you found your company’s Magic Slice topics?
  • Have you put together lists of media contacts who will reach your audience?
  • Are you using social media to boost your brand awareness and reach new audiences?
  • Are you controlling your own narrative by including your mission in your story strategy?

Credits

Author

Ciara Byrne

Digital Content Executive at MediaHQ

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