HONG KONG—Public relations people need to harness the power of storytelling to drive behavioral change, Marion McDonald, managing director of strategy and planning at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, told a ThinkTank Live seminar in Hong Kong on “The Age of Engagement.”
“Science shows that humans organize experiences into stories,” says McDonald. “And we categorize them based on our emotional reactions to those stories. And science has shown that it’s the emotional part of the brain that helps us make decision. So when we appeal to people through facts and reason we’re missing the point. We need to reach them through emotion, and to do that we need to tell stories.”
Visual storytelling—not always a core skill of public relations people—is particularly important, McDonald says, citing statistics from Asian markets showing the volume of video being watched, downloaded and commented on by citizens from the region and urging public relations people to develop new forms of content in order to tell powerful, emotional stories.
Thomas Cramption, director of Social@Ogilvy, focused on the core elements of storytelling SUCCESS—Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Story—outlined by authors Chip and Dan Heath in their book “Made to Stick.”
Crampton illustrated those elements with examples that included an emotional campaign for the Huggies brand that sought to persuade Chinese citizens to give up their seats for or otherwise accommodate pregnant moms; and an internal communications effort for Ogilvy China that asked employees to think about how they engaged in social media using humor rather than a rules-based approach.
He shared Ogilvy’s own “SURFER” principles for successful content, that it be Shareable, User-generated, Real, Fast, Emotional, and Reflective of the viewer.
“The first thing to remember is that fundamentally the world doesn’t care about your product,” he said. “But people love to share.” So for Huggies in Hong Kong, the firm launched a fan page on Facebook by encouraging moms to post their baby photos—with the best being featured in outdoor media, from buses to subway stations. The campaign built a large community of engaged fans of the brand.