Having made the up-front investment to get this far in the game, and with so much at stake, it’s time to ask yourself whether you’ve done everything possible to enhance your chances of success and reduce the risk of failure.
Here’s the question: Can you tell your story in a way that’s so compelling that you will win the day? Policy makers, legislators, regulators, juries, the general public — these decision makers control the destiny of your project, but they generally do not have the technical background to understand massive volumes of data and reams of argumentation. You must help them understand and believe in your case — in your story.
Every set of facts can be summed up by a compelling story, a logic train that makes clear why your efforts – your facts – should matter to those making a decision. A compelling story opens up a gateway of understanding, making it possible for your audience to easily grasp the gist of your case, and to achieve emotional buy-in.
Finding the story behind volumes of technical information and crafting that story into compelling words, diagrams, charts, pictures and video — while remaining true to the underlying facts – these story telling skills are the essential element in the process of persuasion.
How do we go about developing and telling your story? It’s a multi-step process, customized to each client’s needs, but based on some fundamental principles developed over decades of work on hundreds of complex and challenging public affairs situations.
To begin, we study and absorb all the details of your fact case. Only when we understand the nuances can we craft the most compelling story that will win over sometimes very skeptical audiences.
Next, we use our understanding of your information and your story, on the one hand, and the interests of your audiences, on the other hand, to bridge the gap between you and them. Every communications situation, no matter how dry or technical, offers themes that help us forge this bond.
We do this by weaving your facts and themes into a story that is designed to appeal to your audiences on multiple levels and lead to understanding of your efforts and agreement with what you are trying to achieve.
Finally, in presentations, fact sheets, white papers, brochures, website materials, speeches, documentary films and other communications tools we tell your story in a manner that optimizes for success and protects against failure.
Most companies are eager to stretch their advertising budgets as far as possible – which is why media buyers frequently negotiate perks for their clients beyond the price of the advertising itself.
These benefits – known collectively as “added value” – can come in the form of bonus commercials, sponsorships, free PSAs, on-air promotions, public relations opportunities and/or online links. How much value they add to a paid advertising campaign depends upon their execution and their relevance to the company. In many ways, it depends upon how well the media agency knows its client.
With careful planning, thought and collaboration, a small “added value” benefit can not only add tremendous value to a specific advertising campaign, it can transcend its immediate purpose and support other business objectives as well.
Case in point
As the agency of record for Southern California Edison (SCE), Winner & Associates produces branding commercials and seasonal commercials for the utility’s various energy-efficiency programs – for example, tuning up central air conditioners in the spring, recycling refrigerators in the summer, and switching to CFLs in the fall.
In 2008, when SCE began seeking new ways to tie their discrete seasonal programs together to raise awareness of the many ways customers could save energy, money and the environment, Winner & Associates negotiated added-value air time with TV stations running SCE’s branding ads. The result: we produced a handful of 10- and 15-second spots starring three SCE employees delivering energy-saving tips.
Soon after the spots began airing for the general market, SCE expanded the program into six ethnic markets. The award-winning ads were well-received – both internally and externally – and helped SCE exceed campaign goals for all three seasonal campaigns.
Buoyed by the success of the initial energy-saving tips campaign, Winner & Associates expanded the tips campaign in 2009. For one week in April, Winner & Associates and SCE auditioned nearly 600 employees. “We really only expected about 100 employees to be interested and were thrilled by the overwhelming response,” the utility’s corporate communications manager said at the time.
In the end, 37 SCE employees were selected as “on-air” talent for the 2009 campaign, and Winner & Associates produced a total of 80 spots in six different languages – English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese and Korean. Already, the tips have increased traffic on SCE’s website by 50 percent, and they’ve enhanced employee morale.
“All I could hear when walking anywhere in the office was, ‘Good morning, superstar,’ and ‘Can I have your autograph?” said one SCE engineer who appeared in the ads. “I was bombarded with all kinds of questions concerning the filming and the audition. It was a great experience.”
Now that’s added value.