The importance of storytelling in a performance-driven world – by Sarah Owen

In times like these, brands can easily get bogged down in performance metrics, and it’s no wonder. In the past few years, businesses have felt increased pressure to deliver on KPIs and to achieve even greater returns on investment to stay afloat. Covid may seem like a distant memory, but most businesses are still feeling some of the effects. And as if that wasn’t enough, we now find ourselves facing a global recession.

Storytelling is a way for brands to tell the narrative of their business and drive a compelling story to engage, entice and convert audiences into loyal customers. And while you cannot measure the effects of storytelling at the same granular level as performance marketing activity, it’s no less important.

Storytelling, public profile, thought leadership – these aspects of brand building all keep company with other less measurable elements of an organization, like integrity and work ethic, yet they are integral to the successful operation of a business.

Storytelling is timeless

While the world is constantly changing, storytelling remains a timeless art. No matter what is going on around us, crafted content that inspires, informs and entertains us is an essential tool for brands.

Shared human truths unite us, provoking interest and engagement.

For brands, storytelling provides an avenue to connect with consumers on an emotional level. It empowers brands to share their values and personality in a way that feels less like a sales pitch and more like a concerted effort to strengthen relationships with customers.

Authenticity is the buzzword of our time – as it is becoming increasingly important for consumers and brands. People are fed up of the fake and want truth and honesty. With only 8 per cent of people believing advertising, brands need to work harder on their communication. Storytelling allows brands to communicate with consumers in a way that feels more genuine, which means people are more receptive.

Airbnb is a great example of a brand that not only does storytelling well but also allows the voices of its users to take the spotlight. Rather than telling its company story, it makes its customers tell their stories via the online Airbnb community, or on its YouTube channel.

But communication can’t be a one-way street

Marketing and sales are mainly one-way forms of communication. But humans don’t want to just be spoken to, they want to be involved in conversations with brands and feel like their opinions are valued. This is where PR is so important. It opens up conversations between your brand and the rest of the world and leaves room for feedback; PR in its truest form involves listening to your audience and responding.

This is important for brands, especially during a financial downturn, as it informs brands of what matters to their customers and ensures the tone of their communications is appropriate. It helps them demonstrate they’re on their customers’ side and have their interests at the center of what they do.

Getting under people’s skin and driving conversations that matter is how brands will evolve, and PR supports this.

Consider all audiences

Public relations helps build and nurture strategic relationships that will serve your business in the long run – whether it’s finding brands to collaborate with, supporting new business activity, or attracting potential investors that can help take your business to the next level.

Of course, metrics are important for building strategic partnerships, just look at an episode of The Dragon’s Den. But, in the same breath, the most successful pitches in the show have been those that are anchored in strong PR and storytelling. From Levi Roots’ Reggae Reggae Sauce inspired by his grandmother, to Hannah Saunders’ safe skincare brand for kids Toddle, which she left the armed forces to create.

Look for it and everything in life involves a bit of PR and storytelling. Whether it’s governments promising better futures for their citizens, or individuals portraying an image to the world. But whether you’re a government official or a brand marketer, the differentiating factor is how you tell that story.

By Sarah Owen, CEO and founder, Pumpkin PR