What Effective Tech Communications And Great Film Have In Common
Your technology or telecom company has engaged a public relations firm, but six months into its retainer, open rates on your press releases remain low, social media traction is limited to your colleagues and employees and business and trade industry media still don’t seem to understand what it is your company actually does, if they cover you at all. Most dispiriting, lead generation activity -- the holy grail -- remains an empty cup.
At some point, the C-suite asks its marketing leadership, "What are we paying for, and wouldn’t this money be better invested in another sales rep?" A reasonable question, which I would suggest they table before taking the afternoon off to go to the movies. The art of film storytelling has a lot to tell us about effective technology and telecom communications.
What Story Is And Why It Matters
Rob Biesenbach, the former vice president of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, once defined a story as “a character in pursuit of a goal in the face of some challenge or obstacle.” Let’s parse that beautifully succinct idea into its three individual elements: 1) a character, 2) a goal, 3) a challenge or obstacle.
Seems simple enough. However, most corporate communications stop short, providing only a character in pursuit of a goal: We did this wonderful thing to accomplish that. Hence, by failing to identify a challenge or obstacle, there is no tension to the corporate story. And no tension equals no audience.
To return to the movies, regardless of whether your tastes run to action-adventure, romantic comedy or science-fiction, all great films capture your attention in the first 10 to 15 minutes. You learn something meaningful about the hero or heroine (brand identity), the nature of the world in which they live (market) and, most importantly, what obstacles or challenges (limitations of technology or business processes) they must overcome to vanquish the bad guys, win love or save the planet (business outcome). Otherwise, you’re left squirming restlessly in your seat or reaching for the remote. Life is short, and there are as many entertainment options today as your customers have alternate vendors.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE
Let’s say your company is expanding its fiber-optic network, launching a new data center, establishing a Point of Presence (PoP) in a new market or introducing a game-changing cloud connectivity platform. Your PR firm has dutifully drafted and distributed a press release, followed that with a blog, tweeted every day with clever memes and GIFs and perhaps even placed a ghostwritten thought-leadership article in a well-regarded online trade publication. And yet, no one seems to be paying attention, and the sales pipeline remains dry.
I would submit that it’s not so much what your firm is doing, but how. It's a failure of brand strategy rather than tactics, because effective communications are always based on compelling storytelling. Is your blog telling your audience a story they already know? Or is it taking them to a place where they’ve never been, by encouraging them to think about their problems and your solution in ways they’ve never before encountered?
Heroic Public Relations Requires Heroic Storytelling
That press release or bylined article concerning your network expansion deserves an effective communications strategy based on the principles of effective film storytelling. If you’re not artfully pulling your audience along with you from the opening scene (paragraph) through obstacles and challenges (preferably backed by market statistics and research) to arrive at a satisfying climax (our customers achieved X, Y and Z), your audience will gradually make its way through the dark toward the exit sign.
Your company and its product or service are the heroes of your story, but who or what is the antagonist? What are the conditions of the market, and how will it “save the world?” Is the obstacle or challenge an incumbent provider who fails to see the value in an underserved market, latency-intensive business applications or legacy architecture? While best practices would never suggest referring to your competition by name, if your press release, blog, thought leadership article or corporate video fails to address the conflict or challenge your product or service solves, there is no tension in your story. Once again, no tension means no audience.
According to Forrester Research, buyers can be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their buying journey before they contact a vendor. Moreover, on average, buyers seek out three pieces of content about a vendor for every individual piece sent by sales. Clearly, content matters in the buying cycle of your customer prospects. Is your firm building a captive audience?