Advertising Gets Narrative ...


It pains me to say what I’m about to say.

Advertising recognizes the power of narrative more than the PR profession.

This isn’t to say that PR efforts aren’t using storytelling techniques (sorry for the double negative, Mr. Harper). There are consultancies like us as well as corporations who have got the storytelling religion.

But you don’t see narrative deployed as consistently on the PR side as in advertising.

I recognize a news release on a revised CRM platform doesn’t exactly lend itself to developing the character of a protagonist. Still, I believe PR programs are too often creating content that aligns with who-what-where-when-why journalism when the media has moved on to putting greater emphasis on storytelling.

The latest JPMorgan Chase ad (pasted into this post below) running in The Journal and other business publications got me thinking about this topic.

Let’s start with the ad headline:

“We’re Going On The Road To Help Homeowners Face to Face”

A tone of humanity is established from the get go.

If this was the typical news release on the same topic, it would read:

“JPMorgan To Conduct Seminars on Home Mortgages in Eight North American Cities”

Forget the theoretical. I snagged the actual news release put out by Chase PR which carries the following headline (BTW, I did write the theoretical news release before seeing this):

Chase plans multi-day, foreclosure-prevention events in eight markets to help struggling home owners

Now there’s a warm term, “foreclosure-prevention events.”

Back to the ad –

It talks about hosting sessions across the country to assist homeowners with their mortgages, a successful event in Florida – helped 3,000 people – and plans to do more of these sessions.

Conversational language takes the reader through the story.

In fact, it’s interesting to note that the ad stays away from the term “foreclosure-prevention events,” instead using the empathetic words “homeowner assistance events.”

The irony is PR enjoys an advantageous position for storytelling. Those ad guys must cram their stories into expensive real estate.

We should capitalize on this position.

Quick example –

I interviewed a client this week on the topic of cultivating a mindset for innovation.

Now you might think, “Good luck coming up with something fresh on a topic that has been intensely scrutinized by the likes of Harvard Business Review, Fortune and The Economist.  What can your client possibly add to the dialog?”

You would be mistaken.

He told terrific stories complete with anecdotes like the CEO taking a hands-on approach to building a brainstorming room. The CEO’s office at one point was filled with different types of dishes and glassware as he scrutinized the right selections for facilitating innovation. He shared a second story about mixing young minds with seasoned veterans as a catalyst for brainstorming.

My point is, the stories are there.

They’re always there.

We just need to dig them out.

jp m,organ chase narrative ad



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