Storytelling is the key to corporate communications

Billy leads Grayling’s PR offering in Scotland and is also a member of Grayling UK's team of specialist crisis and issues management consultants. He has devised and implemented many award-winning consumer and corporate PR campaigns and specialises in media strategy and strategic planning. Billy is also a ‘digital ambassador’ for Grayling and has responsibility for ensuring digital strategies are effectively executed in the agency’s network of offices. Follow Billy on Twitter: @billypartridge

Since Grayling was formed three years ago, we have gone from a standing start to being the UK’s 4th Most Rated Corporate Agency, as rated by a panel of 870 business journalists from across the length and breadth of the country.

Storytelling counts

It is an achievement that none of us could ever have imagined possible in such a short timeframe.

So how have we got there so quickly, and what have we learned about corporate communications in the last three years?

Right at the heart of what we do is telling corporate stories through media relations. Business audiences still consume traditional media frequently and trust newspapers and broadcasters to filter out the irrelevant and to focus in on the noteworthy. For investors, broadsheet journalism in its widest sense is still the place to get your information.

To have 870 business journalists tell us that the ‘quality of our briefings’ and our ‘accessibility’ is what they admire the most about Grayling’s corporate communications consultants is testament to the focus we place on getting our storytelling right.

So what is corporate storytelling?

Well, for me it’s about context, and vision. We push our clients hard to tell us about the long term – to paint a picture of where they are going, how they will get there, and why it matters. In so doing, it is possible to interrogate how that journey influences different stakeholders, which enables us to develop different storylines for different audiences at different times.

But storytelling is also a skill. The best PRs have an ability to second guess journalists and to provide stories in a form that works – it is disturbing to hear a journalist, as I often do, complain broadly about the quality of storytelling in our industry.

Another factor in storytelling is getting the detail right. For example, everyone knows about the rise of infographics, but so ubiquitous are they now that securing coverage with them has become hard work. So understanding how to punch through the noise, with clarity, visual intrigue and hard news, is vital in the process.

It almost feels incongruous to spend so much time on this topic given the increasing sophistication with which one tends to view the world of communications. Greater numbers of digital channels and the risks/rewards of social media have changed the landscape forever – but I can’t help thinking that it all boils down to the same fundamental building blocks.

Where I have seen greater change is in strategy development. That sophistication has led to a new wave of thinking and it is important to ensure your tactical execution reflects the strategic constructs that sit behind them. So developing effective corporate PR isn’t just about the storytelling – it starts with the thinking, the research and the planning.

Like any 4th-placed team, our goal is to aim higher. We want to build on our success and create a world class team of corporate communicators. This is where I go all gooey because despite our global credentials and impressive London-based corporate team, our Edinburgh office was picked out for high praise in the survey – proving you don’t have to sit in the City or the West End to deliver outstanding corporate PR. You can tell good stories from pretty much anywhere.

Search The Drum Jobs

Explore the best jobs in Marketing and Media industries
View all open jobs