Holmes Report Blog

The Holmes Report blog focuses on news and issues of interest to public relations professionals. Our main site can be found at www.holmesreport.com.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Tell Me a Story, Please: I just finished judging the SABRE Awards entries in the U.S. (finalists will be posted to our website later today) and I’m halfway through judging our European SABRE Awards entries, and one of the things that really stands out this year is that too many public relations people have no idea how to tell a compelling story.

The key to a successful award entry is the two-page summary. If the two-page summary doesn’t tell the story of the campaign in a way that’s engages the judges, if it doesn’t provide a narrative that is gripping and persuasive, all the supporting materials you so lovingly packaged in a three-inch binder will never be seen.

But most of these two-page summaries are dry recitations of facts or actions, with no narrative thread, no over-arching storyline, no emotion, and no humor. In other words, they lack the elements of good story.

And with the average judge reading between 80 and 100 two-page summaries, a good story will really help yours stand out.

That’s not to say there isn’t a ton of good work out there. I think this year’s awards competition attracted more good programming than I’ve seen in five or six years. But it’s often presented in a lackluster way that does not do it justice.

And I can’t help thinking that’s symptomatic of a deeper malaise in the PR industry, that we are not—as an industry—very good at telling stories. It’s one area, it seems to me, where advertising people have the advantage over PR people. I know people who cry at television commercials. I certainly know people who laugh at them. When was the last time anything produced by your agency or PR department provoked that kind of reaction?

Am I being unfair? Is storytelling less important to good public relations than I think it is? Are there great storytellers out there? Is storytelling something you can teach and institutionalize? How do we get better at it? Am I write to blame PowerPoint for some of this> I’ll probably end up writing something on this subject for the newsletter, and you know what that means: a long, comprehensive look at the subject. If you have something to contribute I’d love to hear from you.


  • At 2:38 PM, Blogger Katie Delahaye Paine said…

    Not only can't they tell as story, but, having judged too many entries myself, who ever writes these things doesn't have a clue as to what a measureable objective is. Nor do they understand that objectives and results are supposed to be connected!


Post a Comment

<< Home