Oct 16, 2012

Storytelling: The Lynchpin for New & Traditional Media

A potent video from Facebook Stories – it’ s a masterclass in storytelling.

Is being a communicator for some of the coolest brands a road paved with yellow bricks?  They must have big teams, large budgets, and journalists knocking down their doors, right?  PRSA 2012 International Conference attendees got a look behind the curtain at a session featuring:

  • Jonny Thaw (@jonnyjt), Manager of Technology and Engineering Communications at Facebook,
  • Karen Wickre (@kvox), Editorial Director at Twitter, and
  • Demetra Kavadeles (@metersd), Global Consumer Public Relations Manager at Skype.

Peter Himler (@peterhimler)of Flatiron Communications LLC, moderated the discussion.

I let my geek flag fly, got right up front and waited for pearls of wisdom to be hurled at me in succinct 120 character sound bites – that way I could easily be retweeted and and broadcast their genius across the social sphere. The good news? All three panelists had great wisdom, advice and practices. The bad news? Not in 120 character sound bites.

I found myself so enthralled with the content of their discussion that my tweeting suffered. There were some fun voyeur facts (Facebook has 40 people on their communications team, Twitter has eight, and Skype seven) and that Facebook’s team reports up to the COO, not through marketing.

In addition to all the new school tools, all three still give paramount status to pitching the media. What was truly revealing was not the “peek behind Oz’s curtain” but the very real conversation about storytelling, FTC regulations for bloggers, authenticity and transparency.

Storytelling and blogging have a symbiotic relationship. Both Facebook (http://www.facebookstories.com/) and Twitter (http://blog.twitter.com/2011/11/introducing-twitter-stories.html) have whole sites dedicated to their users’ stories to demonstrate their offline impact. All three companies have a lot of time and resources invested in creating a robust and engaging company blog. Dametra keeps things fresh by getting a variety of contributors creating posts, which then begged the question: how do you get them to write it?!  The consensus of the panel, and I suspect the audience, was that is the biggest challenge to the company blog. Jonny makes sure to offer kudos to those who write for the blog. He says it helps the contributor feel valued, and starts the momentum of others wanting to contribute.

“If they are too busy to even write a bad draft, have someone go over and ask them questions,” Karen offered.  “Provide them with a first draft to edit and adapt.”

As the discussion went on the issue of the FTC came up. They all agreed that when in doubt disclose. Karen referenced her time at Google and shared that she would edit Wikipedia from her corporate email address, disclose who she was, and let them know it was an edit for factual accuracy.

In closing the panel was asked about what companies best utilized their platforms. All three referenced media organizations as top performers. Jonny thought The New York Times does a great job on Facebook, Karen thought that The New York Times and NPR both use Twitter artfully, and Demetra thought that broadcast news organizations have ally learned to leverage the Skype platform well.

Some of the key take always for me were:

  • Harness your internal talent to help tell your story.
  • Be authentic and transparent – to not only stay out of trouble but to engage with your audience.
  • There is value in traditional media telling your story, social and curated content is complimentary.

In the end it still holds true, no matter the company popularity or notoriety as communicators we still have the same challenges, concerns, and conversations – they are just scaled differently.

Author Natalie Bering is an account manager for PR Newswire.

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