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Ask the Storyteller: Tips for Telling Your Agency's Award-Winning Story

Bulldog Awards, Marketing, Pr, PR agency, PR awards, PR campaign, PR industry, PR insights, PR success, Public relations, Tom Hallman, winning PRBy Tom Hallman Jr., Award-winning journalist and author

We often think of “characters” when it comes to movies, books and narrative non-fiction. Does it have a place in public relations, and how do successful campaigns incorporate character and other storytelling techniques?

That’s what this column is all about. Future columns will break down storytelling elements, explaining them in ways that your team can apply these tools in ways that make your campaign stand out.

As a Bulldog Reporter judge, I’m privileged to read entries that represent the best work in the industry. What separates a good campaign from a great campaign often has little to do with a huge budget, or the ability to snare a celebrity spokesman.

Storytelling allows the PR team to emotionally connect with the consumer. That’s no different than an author, photographer or screenwriter. Emotional resonance is what makes a person keep reading, keep watching and ultimately “feel” something. Or, in the case of PR, put down money to buy a product or service.

The secret?

Character or brand.

In this column, I’m going to use the word character, but it could apply to brand. Think about this: When I say Harley Davidson what comes to mind? That’s the power of character. It unlocks what is within you right now. The fact is, all motorcycles do the same thing. But the consumer wants a Harley because the brand is a character.

I pulled a couple examples from the recent Bulldog Awards to show you what successful agencies are doing in the thinking stage of a campaign. That’s when the real creative work takes place.

One agency had to deal with a successful movie. In their words, a “blockbuster.”

Look at the creative thinking:

“A massive theatrical hit means tons of buzz and a built-in fan base. But it also means sky high expectations on a drastically lower budget (as studios hope that organic chatter will make up for spending less cash). Facing that uphill battle, we used our greatest asset to turn the (campaign) into a colossal success of its own. That asset? The (movie) character himself.”

Here’s great thinking from another winning campaign, this time realizing the power of story. As humans, we convey facts and feelings most efficiently in story form. It’s far more effective than a list, or the whiz-bang graphics and soundtracks.

“We decide to utilize social as a storytelling platform, expand (the brand) on LinkedIn platform, launch a (brand) Facebook page and develop its presence and reach, connect and engage the target audiences on two (brand) Twitter channels.

Finally, I want to end with an example of brilliant strategic thinking. This comes directly from the entry form.

Read it carefully.

Apply it to your work.

“The team began by conducting primary and secondary research and social listening. What they found is that in the current economic environment, small and mid-sized business owners are more optimistic than ever, and business leaders entered 2016 with a positive outlook.

Gallup’s Small Business Index revealed an increase of 13 points in small business leader’s optimism, the largest quarter-to-quarter increase since January 2015. This optimism in the current business climate is driving small businesses and leaders to grow further, accomplish more and deliver greater innovations.

By telling (the brand’s) story through the lens of real people – consumers, business decision makers and Synchrony thought leaders — we humanized the brand and personified the process of working forward, demonstrating how (brand) supplies the best financial guidance, products and tools along the way.

If you have questions about storytelling, send them my way.

Tom Hallman Jr. is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist at the Oregonian and the author of “Dispatches from 1320,” his anthology of award winning narrative non-fiction stories. It is available on Amazon. Hallman is also available to come speak at agencies about storytelling and story coaching. Contact him at

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