Some days, it seems you are more likely to find £20 down the back of a sofa than come across a feel-good, happy story in the press.
Our use of words has become somewhat negative over the years. Trolling online is rife. Too many press articles tear poor celebrities apart.
But when the right words come together to tell a good story, great things can be achieved. Words, after all, have moved mountains; won empires.
And there has been a bit of a positive movement with happy storytelling in the press of late.
When the tide turned
It started to emerge 18 months ago when the pandemic struck. As the nation screamed out for good news against a backdrop of sadness, anxiety and doom, journalists sought happy stories to cheer up us all up.
For those in the PR industry, this was a golden opportunity to seize. After all, our prime currency is a good story. We spend our days unearthing the untold gems and shaping new stories to stand out and cut through the noise.
Some big campaigns had to be put on pause by brands. But there to plug that gap and keep the plates of brand awareness spinning was the PR industry. We demonstrated our value. C-Suites invited us to the table at long last. We were being listened to.
How brands reacted to the zeitgeist
It’s a bit bonkers to reflect and conclude that it took a crisis to get some businesses to look for - and celebrate - all the little and momentous things they do every day to positively impact society.
One shift that prompted the novices to mine for these types of stories was the regular call outs for community heroes from the media.
This reached a record high last year. We were regularly reading about all the amazing things people were doing to help their neighbours in need. How the public championed and helped out NHS workers. It seemed to restore our faith in humanity at a time when bad things were happening around the globe.
Brands started to see what mattered to their customers and it was selfless acts. Action with sincerity.
They forewent their ‘business as usual’ comms strategies and reacted, showing off their human side a bit more to build brand image and connect with people.
Many took the spotlight away from product USPs and corporate messaging and focused on their wonderful employees instead. They mined across their businesses to uncover the delightful, the unexpected and the surprising stories to bring a smile to our faces.
Is telling good stories right for every brand?
Not every brand story is designed to spark a smile or a laugh. But it makes sense to think about the stories your customers genuinely want to hear. Nobody wants a brand story forced on them that is dull and unwelcomed.
A good starting point is to think: How can we craft our stories differently to inspire the desired action?
Think about how a story will jolt inertia with your audiences. Tempt them to switch out of their brand of choice to yours.
Shaping the right story starts with audience insights
Ultimately, a brand usually wants people to enter a new brand world that they either haven’t considered before or one that they do not think is relevant to them.
Understanding the audience is – no surprise – essential to gain deeper knowledge around how a target customer thinks and feels, what they want and the support they need.
Businesses have an opportunity to really listen as there usually is a spark of a big idea sitting in an audience insights deck.
It could be as simple as telling the good stories about the answers you have to address their needs.
Or it could be showcasing how employees’ positive and selfless acts are improving brand services, giving customers want they want.
It sounds easy, right? But where do you start? It doesn’t have to cost a lot but it does require some fresh thinking and new approaches.
How to create feel good news stories
- Mine for good stories
Every day, small acts of kindness to big wins are making a real difference for your customers. And they are probably going unnoticed by the marketing team.
Most businesses we work for are sitting on a gold mine of content that embodies a brand’s core values, purpose and beliefs. It’s our job to tease them out.
Step one is onboarding and encouraging employees to tell their stories and feed them upwards. To make this happen, we find that an incentive programme coupled with an effective internal communications strategy gets this all moving.
Once off the starting blocks with a few good stories banked, it will become easy to sustain. Simply share the impact these positive stories have had on business objectives back to your employees to galvanise others to step forward.
Not only will this approach feed your PR and social media story pipeline, but it will also have a positive impact on employee morale.
- Share customer stories
If you want to demonstrate a key benefit of your product or service, the most authentic way to do this is through a customer’s first-hand experience.
When we meet someone in real life, we ask questions to get to know them better. We listen to their anecdotes, ideas, opinions, and beliefs. The same is true when you hear a friend share a positive brand experience. It gives us clarity; it’s believable and is proven to be more impactful than advertising.
Finding these stories should be actively encouraged wherever and whenever possible across all touchpoints and channels. And pushed back out for the world to hear.
And the outcome of sharing these stories? It helps you to become further engrained in the public’s conscious awareness.
- Do the unexpected
Journalists do not want to be told something they know or expect to hear from you. You have to cultivate interest with something surprising or sprinkle some entertainment dust over the story. To be heard, you might have to be a little bit more outrageous, controversial, brave or amusing.
Tapping into cultural moments is one easy way to dip your toe into these uncharted waters.
A meaningful partnership with another brand is a good story in itself. Mutually beneficial partnerships are a great way to spread your good news to a like-minded audience. You can ‘borrow’ desired credentials too if you partner with a brand a bit more trendy, techy or fashionable.
The great thing about a collaboration is access to a new critical mass. And working with a partner’s marcomms team could unleash some fresh new thinking.
- Stand for something good
Lots of articles have been penned about giving back and doing something meaningful. If this isn’t part of your comms strategy already, it should be. It’s expected by your customers.
Look for opportunities to get involved with causes that reflect your business values and beliefs and make it an ‘always on’ priority.
This could mean amplifying what you are doing already, the actions that make a real difference to local communities where you have a presence. Or creating new and untold stories that creatively showcase how a product or service is helping people in need.
A final note. Keep being inspired by all those great stories you find yourself telling your colleagues, friends or partner. The stories we pass on have made us feel something, stirred an emotion.
Does your brand story do this? If it doesn’t, it’s time to go back to basics to find those magic elements that will ‘sing’ to your audiences.