Storytelling Is for PR Too

As someone who majored in journalism, telling full and complete stories inverted pyramid style is practically ingrained in me. While writing for PR clients differs, both require the writer to tell a story. Whether it’s a blog post, bylined article or press release, you need to do more than describe a product. Instead, you need to capture the attention of their audiences with a genuine, compelling story.

To deliver on this expectation, ask yourself, “What’s the story here?” Once you determine an answer, you’re ready to write through the lens of that story angle. Along the way, I’ve learned some helpful tips when it comes to keeping the heart of the story front and center in your writing.

Have a Thorough Understanding of What You’re Writing About

First and foremost, unearthing a story is nearly impossible if you don’t understand what you’re writing about. Whether you’re writing about the latest retail technology tool (tends to be where my mind is at these days) or a new hire, a thorough understanding of the subject will help you create your story. To hone in on this, create a ‘topic sentence’ based on the story to help guide your writing. Within this sentence, highlight the main sentiment you want to convey to readers in just a few words. I like to write it out and keep it handy to refer back to as I delve into creating content.

Let the Story Unfold

With your ‘topic sentence’ in mind, your thoughts are given direction, allowing a story to unfold. As you write, glance at your topic sentence to ensure your words line up with your core idea. On top of a thorough understanding, creativity is key. If you’re constructing a press release about a new product launch, chances are the story runs deeper than the objective features of the product. Put yourself in the shoes of a prospective customer. Think about how the product solves pain points in everyday lives to shine light on the story you should tell.

As PR professionals, we may not be commissioned to write novels, but that shouldn’t stop our inner storyteller from emerging. Human nature gravitates toward stories. Stories tend to engage more than direct facts without a connecting theme. As you endeavor to serve clients well, envision yourself as a storyteller for the brand and products. This goes a long way with the media, readers and the agency-client relationship.

To learn more about the power of storytelling in PR, you can find more helpful tips on Cision.

The Holiday Season Is Upon Us: Top Retail Trends in 2018

As the year comes to an end, retailers have one thing on their minds: maximizing the peak shopping season. Between consumers shopping for Christmas gifts and preparing for holiday festivities, sales spike in November and December. Even more so, NRF expected this year’s retail sales to increase nearly 5% over 2017. In addition to a higher percentage of sales, more competition between retailers also ensues. Vying to stand out, notable retailers and brands have proved their value to consumers with a few innovative trends.

Taking the cake in 2018 are those who understand what their customers want and deliver the highest quality in response.

A Personalized Approach Goes a Long Way

In today’s on-demand economy, traditional deals won’t capture shopper’s attention alone. Instead, customized apps and email promotions help on-the-go consumers know what discounts are available ahead of time.

In my own personal holiday shopping this season, Nordstrom’s app has helped me stay up to date on which products are on sale. Furthermore, the app creates a personalized “looks” page that generates outfits based on a profile I’ve created. As I shop for friends and family and snag last minute outfits, the app has been a lifesaver. Browsing online gives me insight into what items are in stock at the store closest to me. When I’m in a crunch and know what I want, I can easily place an order online. If I’m unsure about a size, I can reserve up to 10 items online and swing by the store to try them on. Needless to say, personalized apps go a long way when the holiday season rolls around.

Apps are taking over, but email marketing isn’t a lost cause either. While clogged inboxes aren’t exactly a shopper’s dream, I’ve enjoyed receiving specialized discount codes from my favorite retailers this month. In many cases, I’ve bought something online or stopped by the store to browse because of the emails I’ve received.

Social Media Drives Results

The cellphone is an integral part of the modern-day shopping experience. Specifically, social media platforms have a dominant hold on users. According to the 2018 Holiday Social Marketing Trends report, 56% of consumers said a brand’s social media presence affected holiday purchase decisions. Additionally, 79% of marketers planned to run a holiday campaign on social this year. Out of those who ran a holiday ad campaign last year, 88% of marketers said it was effective. Hence, the strategy seems to work in most cases.

This year, retailers from various industries are getting in on the action. Companies are using relevant hashtags and Instagram stories to capitalize on increased shopping. Target, for example, features a “Gift Ideas” highlight on Instagram to offer some ideas based on who shoppers are buying for from babies to teachers. Though this is a practical approach to increasing awareness among customers, some brands are going for a more emotional effect.

Air Canada pulls on heartstrings with an ad showing emotional reunions as airline passengers come home for the holidays, associated with the hashtag #FlyTheFlag. The Instagram community took to the video with nearly 5,000 likes.

VR and AR Give Glimpse Into Retail’s Future

A recent addition to the holiday marketing repertoire is enhanced reality. Whether virtual or augmented, the technology is gaining traction among retailers. Most noteworthy, Facebook launched augmented reality camera effects for ad campaigns over the summer. This holiday season, Office Depot is using the technology to offer “Elf Yourself” ads. With this feature, consumers can animate themselves with elf-like effects.

An even more immersive and novel experience is virtual reality. Though more of an enigma, we can expect more VR experiences in retail’s future. Macy’s is an early adopter of the technology, launching “See Your Space IRL”  in time for the holidays. Available in about 70 Macy’s locations, shoppers can use a VR headset to envision a room in their home and experiment with different furniture pieces.

All in all, holiday shopping has come a long way from overnight campout sessions outside of stores to catch the latest deals. With a more digital, customer-centric approach, securing the season’s top purchases is a bit more seamless. Don’t get me wrong, I still think holiday shopping is a stressful time of year, but I’m thankful that so many retailers have stepped it up in hopes of a more fun and less chaotic experience.