As part of our research for a client I have been shopping on eBay for antiques. During that research I came across a postcard from the 1940s sent from Chicago. It is called a Busy Person’s Correspondence Card. Here’s a picture of it:
It’s a surprisingly modern idea. When you think about the ephemeral nature of communication these days – texts, emails, status updates, posts, retweets, likes and favourites – much of it’s currency in superficial thoughts and ideas. It is fast food communication, similar to the multiple choice sentiments expressed on the card.
The temptation for communicators in this digital torrent, is to emulate the style of each of these forms of communication without considering the whole.
We take our storytelling guidance from an unusual source, Rupert Bear. Before you think I’m crazy, hear me out.
Look at the structure of a Rupert Bear annual. Here’s a typical two page spread:
The story can be absorbed on many levels. There’s the headline at the top of the page. There’s the pictures that read together create a comic strip. There’s the short rhyming couplets. Finally, there’s the detailed text at the foot of the page.
For any reader, the narrative can be carried by any of these four components in isolation. They are also consistent. In a way, then, Rupert Bear annuals can be seen as manuals for the age of social media. The headline is the status update or text. The image is a Pinterest or Instagram post. The rhyme is a Tweet (memorable, repeatable). The text is a tabloid or broadsheet story, illustrated perhaps with any of the above.
My point, then, is that whilst new platforms for communication are emerging practically every day (Jelly being the latest the last time I looked), the focus ought not be on the platform alone (the ‘drill’ as opposed to the ‘hole’) but on how the platform can work a strand of your story. If the elements don’t cohere, the best efforts at storytelling, conversation and engagement are going to look like triumphs of style over substance and evaporate very quickly. Start with a big idea and work out how to say it and when to say it.
This woven approach to storytelling has worked for our clients and we’d love to demonstrate what we could do for you. If you’re looking for a new PR agency in 2014, please do consider us.