The evolving role of storytelling in PR

The storytelling function has never been as important as it is today. At a recent conference on “Authentic Storytelling" organised by PRmoment India, leading corporate communication professionals shared their take on what storytelling is all about today.

PepsiCo Anthem

Pradeep Wadhwa, director, corporate communications, PepsiCo India started with the tale of storytelling itself, pointing out that the most powerful stories are those that have survived over generations like the Panchatantra.

Wadhwa said that great narratives have to be consistent, meaningful, truthful, passionate, authentic and memorable. Wadhwa felt that today’s communicators are not very good at talking directly because they are used to interacting with the audience via the media. Wadhwa also highlighted the importance of retaining talent and helping employees tell their own story. A prime example of such storytelling is the PepsiCo Anthem sung entirely by PepsiCo employees to mark 25 years of PepsiCo in India, in collaboration with Palash Sen.

Top Storytelling Tips

  • Be consistent, truthful and memorable
  • Augmented reality, 3D offers new opportunities for storytelling
  • Be clear and friendly
  • Harvest company stories to remain authentic and relevant
  • Don’t make up stories
  • Research and numbers should unearth a story

Influencer engagement to PR speciality

Shravani Dang, vice president and head, corporate communications, Avantha Group said that for storytelling, managing the influencer relationship is an emerging category of PR specialisation. Dang believes that the power of influencers’ and storytellers will only increase in the new age of PR with augmented reality and 3D printing offering opportunity that is yet to be properly visualised.

Story harvesting for companies

Dang also said that at Avantha they follow a process of “story harvesting” – brainstorming to think up the most relevant and talked about themes.

This is a process that Mahindra follows as well. Deepa Thomas, general manager, group communications, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd said that at Club Mahindra local managers are the central point for mining interesting customer experience stories.

Remain authentic in a crisis and as a storyteller

Deepa Dey, head of communications, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Ltd, top tips for storytelling were to find an authentic narrative, use an authentic way of telling it and use innovation to boost the story.

Giving an example of authentic narrative, Dey talked about Stella Artois and its ‘Buy the lady a drink’ campaign. The beer brand supported the initiative of to provide clean water, an issue that specially affects women who have to walk long distances to find water:

Keeping the message friendly and candid: Google

Paroma Chowdhury, ‎director and country head, corporate communications and Public Affairs, Google India, said that the hallmark of the Google communication voice is to be clear, brief, targeted, friendly and useful.

Chowdhury also talked strongly about being a business partner as a PR professional and the need for young women in PR to focus on their knowledge based skills.

Getting your story heard in a noisy environment: eBay India

Girish Huria, Head of Communications, eBay India has his task cut out trying to make the eBay India story heard in a noisy e-commerce market. In telling the eBay story, Huria says they get eBay India sellers from smaller towns to tell their story to engage with their stakeholders. eBay’s priority in India is to talk to the readers of mainline and regional papers and not to the business papers.  

Give your story a job to do

Rakesh Thukral, managing director, Edelman India pointed out the difference between content and a story saying that it’s important to give your story a job to do and make the medium fit the message.

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