When you’re in public relations, you have to prepare yourself to be called some pretty common names at dinner parties. Spin doctor. Professional liar. Gladiators in Suits (ok, we call ourselves that, but still).
The names you don’t often here are ones associated with more positive connotations, yet these descriptions are far more accurate. Brand Builder. Storyteller.
Recently, the Complete PR team had the opportunity to tell the story of Greenwood Area Habitat for Humanity’s neighborhood revitalization project. The facts themselves were impressive enough – the Greenwood Habitat affiliate was one of only 19 affiliates in the country to receive an impressive grant from Habitat for Humanity International, in partnership with Lowe’s. This grant was to be used not to build a single home from the ground up (Habitat’s hallmark), but to improve an entire neighborhood of homes. In Greenwood, the organization chose to use the grant to work on the Westside neighborhood, an underserved neighborhood that you’ll miss completely if you drive straight through downtown Greenwood. But take a slight turn to the right, and you’ll find it – blocks and blocks of homes in various states of disrepair, anchored by two churches and a small convenience store.
Now, any good PR person can look at those facts and create from them a compelling narrative. And on most days, that’s what we do – take the individual components of an event or client objective and weave them together to create a story that interests a broad audience.
However, the key to great storytelling is knowing when the story can tell itself. This event in Greenwood was one of those instances, and we were privileged to be a part of it. When the Executive Director of the organization is interviewed, and his passion for the project is so contagious that the anchors on the other side of the camera feel it, you know you’ve done your job. When the media witnesses corporate executives from a multibillion dollar company eating lunch with the neighborhood homeowners, not because some “PR person” has decided that the “optics” of the moment are great, but because they are genuinely interested in getting to know each other, you know you’ve done your job. You aren’t a storyteller at this point. You’re more of a story-shower. The story is there. You don’t need to tell it. You just need to connect reporters to the story that’s already playing out before their eyes in the community.
So do PR people lie, cheat, steal, and spin? Well, there are two sides to every story, and they both deserve to be told, so we wouldn’t put it in those terms exactly…(see what we did there?). But in most cases, we are helping our businesses, nonprofits, and communities better communicate the stories that they are already telling. Story-showing, if you will.