Seth Godin’s Take on ...


How can you not like a guy who puts in his official bio:

As an entrepreneur, he has founded dozens of companies, most of which failed.

Seth Godin brings many dimensions to the marketing discipline not the least being levity.

A believer in the art of storytelling, he penned the book “All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World.”

storytelling techniques from Seth Godin

In fact, one of his blog posts from 2009 zeroed in on the intersection of storytelling and public relations.
I connected with Seth last week who was kind enough to give me the OK to dust off the post and republish.

The difference between PR and publicity

By Seth Godin

Most PR firms do publicity, not PR.

Publicity is the act of getting ink. Publicity is getting unpaid media to pay attention, write you up, point to you, run a picture, make a commotion. Sometimes publicity is helpful, and good publicity is always good for your ego.

But it’s not PR.

PR is the strategic crafting of your story. It’s the focused examination of your interactions and tactics and products and pricing that, when combined, determine what and how people talk about you.

Regis McKenna was great at PR. Yes, he got Steve Jobs and the Mac on the cover of more than 30 magazines in the year it launched. That was just publicity. The real insight was crafting the story of the Mac (and yes, the story of Steve Jobs).

If you send out a boring press release, your publicity effort will probably fail, but your PR already has.

A publicity firm will tell you stories of how they got a client ink. A PR firm will talk about storytelling and being remarkable and spreading the word. They might even suggest you don’t bother getting ink or issuing press releases.

Well put.

Here’s one more point.

Sure, you can apply storytelling techniques to a news release.

But I would argue that great storytelling doesn’t easily scale.

How many times can Steve Job’s attention to minutia and black mock turtleneck carry the narrative?

Instead, finding and developing stories should be a never-ending process.


  • Suzanne Henry

    Well said. Seth Godin knew storytelling worked long before it was “cool.” I also agree with you that too many PR firms do “publicity” rather than PR. (In fact, I know few people who can even tell the difference. So, bravo.) I’ve been in the PR field for 26 years and attempt (and sometimes fail) to get clients to undergo storytelling, positioning and messaging work before they even consider putting out a press release. The results for those who do spend time on their stories are head and shoulders above those who don’t.

  • Lou Hoffman

    Yes, Mr. Godin was ahead of the storytelling curve.

    Still, I suppose it says something that storytelling expertise can still be a differentiator in the communications business.


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