& the Art
We develop Strategic Narratives to enable our clients to engage new, relevant audiences, to complement and reduce their dependence on scheduled announcements and milestones, and to enable them to participate in the day’s news in a coherent productive manner. The starting point for such strategic narratives is the audience. The method does not assume interest; it seeks to earn it by observing the audience and understanding how to make the brand relevant.
Countless books have been written about the subject, there are MBAs who are dedicated to it, billion dollar agencies have been built around it . . . the brand was one of the World’s most powerful ‘intangibles’ of the 20th century. I use the past tense since the nature of brands changed, conveniently around 2000, with the propagation of the Internet and, in particular, social media. The latter enabled consumers to answer back to brands’ declarations, evaluate the performance of their products, and broadcast instant reviews of anyone representing them. In essence, companies lost control of their brands; the latter were now influenced – and in some cases, completely redefined – by third parties.
This shift is now accepted. Even the most one-eyed brand manager recognises the difference between a paid advertisement and a Twitter conversation . . . , well, usually! However, there is a secondary effect which we believe the public relations business should seize. The starting point for brand conversations – or conversations that brands could potentially participate in – and it’s got nothing to do with the brand. It’s about the audience.
In virtually all conversations, books and seminars amongst marketing professionals (consultancy-side, in house) over the last 25 years, the starting point is invariably the ‘brand’: what does it mean, what is its character, how should it be positioned, how should it be expressed? In some instances, this conversation is reduced further to the product or service being promoted; what are the features, how do they differ from the competition . . . ? All good conversations, full of insight and relevance, but they are never going to reveal the full story. In most cases, the presumption of need is already, implicitly assumed.
LatAm Intersect PR’s approach is to take a step back and imagine a world where the product was yet to exist; a world ‘pre-brand’? Only this scenario enables us to define the purpose of a particular product, the need it addresses, the purpose it fulfills, the ‘itch’ it ‘scratches’. In many instances, however, the idea of a life ‘pre-brand’ often remains unspoken or, even, taboo; particularly amongst traditional marcomm practitioners wholly dedicated to the brand to a degree where even the possibility of a world without a particular product, category or brand remains inconceivable.
Strategic Narratives are a practical response to this paradox. A narrative is a coherent story with long shelf-life about the audience, that they can relate to and find interesting. Strategic narratives are the bridge to the wider, common ground of daily discussion and conversation; they are:
- Compelling, consistent, repeatable storylines, relevant to the brand’s key audiences and around which the brand’s proposition can be positioned.
- Insight-based and designed to broaden and deepen engagement of brand with target group plus ensuring relevance to a new set of audiences
Through this, the brand will be able to self-generate opportunities for dialogue, comment, intervention, visibility across a wider group. This will serve to build awareness, mitigate risk and decrease dependence on a single group of specialist – and often, predisposed – influencers.
It is a well-accepted fact that building storytelling into the communications mix delivers the personable and engaging messaging that sticks with audiences / stakeholders and creates an effective ‘hook’ for content consumption. However, stories need to be participatory, to engage the reader and not merely ‘told’ to the reader from the vantage point of the teller. Also, if a story eventually ends, the reader will move on to other things.
If our intent is to drive both – thought and action, over an extended period of time, then narratives – consisting of many stories with a unifying underlying theme – offer a powerful vehicle to amplify impact. Narratives are persuasive and can become a powerful tool to impact attitude and behaviour. Narratives resist the confines of a single medium and tend to flourish in a trans-media world where the narrative can unfold across a rich set of media.
Audience-based insights and Strategic Narratives are a cornerstone of LatAm Intersect PR’s thinking, portfolio and client work.