As we get further into the year, we wanted to focus on a topic that is crucial to our business: the art of storytelling.
When it comes to PR, marketing and sales, one of the first topics that often comes up is around the idea of determining the USP of a brand or product. The belief is that if you identify the USP and market it accordingly, you have a formula for success. But today’s consumers are not necessarily looking for what’s unique in the market, but rather they are looking for the product or service that is uniquely equipped to solve their issue or fulfill a personal need. And how do you convince a consumer that a particular brand or product is suited to their unique needs? Well, that’s where storytelling comes in and is the reason why PR professionals stress its importance.
We’ll start off by focusing on an example of impactful storytelling in the hospitality industry. Many hotels – if not every – are likely to claim that one of their USPs is “exceptional customer service,” and that’s certainly something customers take into consideration when booking a hotel of their choice. However, merely telling prospective customers the hotel provides exceptional customer service is not going to move the needle – and that’s where storytelling comes in to make the difference.
Take for example the Ritz Carlton. As a luxury brand, naturally its customers expect a certain quality of customer service. Of course, they’re likely to expect the same level of service from the brand’s competitors as well –so Ritz Carlton tapped into the power of storytelling to set themselves apart. Several years ago, a family vacationing at a Ritz Carlton property was departing when it became evident their child had misplaced a Thomas the Tank Engine toy. Try as they might, the toy could not be located and the family departed without Thomas in tow. However, Ritz Carlton’s team didn’t let this story end with the family’s departure. A staff member immediately ran out to the toy store to buy a new Thomas the Tank Engine, which was brought back to the hotel where the team captured images of Thomas helping teams around the hotel from the concierge to the kitchen. They then wrote out a detailed letter of Thomas’ adventures, noting he’d become so busy that they lost track of time, and packaged this up with the new toy and the images to send to the family. The PR team distributed this story to the news, and soon people across the country were reading about Thomas’ stay at the Ritz Carlton.
Instead of just telling customers they offer great customer service, Ritz Carlton has focused on stories like this to show customers how their customer service is exceptional.
Why is this so important?
When it comes to brands customers will remember, engage with or even generate word of mouth marketing – those that have stories. But it’s important to note that not every story sells. A good story contains certain elements. This is true in literature, movies, theater and also rings true in PR and marketing. The human element and the resolution of an issue or conflict are the key two things that a good story needs.
Take another example: Airbnb. When the brand launched, it wasn’t exactly a novel concept – but what set Airbnb apart and made it a billion-dollar company is storytelling. For Airbnb, the human element focused on the consumer who faced an all too common issue among travelers: the desire for an authentic experience and affordable accommodations. Enter Airbnb, which offers a solution by inviting travelers to stay in a local’s home rather than a hotel likely located in the touristic center of a city. And not only does the stay offer the traveler a chance to have a more authentic experience but it will also save the traveler money, which means they can invest more in experiences or potentially even take a longer trip. When it’s positioned this way, it should come as no surprise that Airbnb quickly rose in popularity and became synonymous with authentic travel experiences.
These are just two examples of successful storytelling, but it’s something that frequently sets successful brands apart from their competitors regardless of the industry. So as you build out your PR and branding strategy, forget your USPs and start thinking about the story you should be telling.