September 26, 2023
In this episode, Ken Melton joins On Top of PR host Jason Mudd to discuss his writing journey and how he tackles his writing process challenges.
Tune in to learn more!
Hailing from Sweet Home Alabama, Ken is a retired U.S. Marine public affairs specialist with a master's in public relations from Georgetown University and a bachelor's in communications from the University of Maryland Global Campus. He's enamored with all things public relations, employee engagement, storytelling, teaching, and writing.
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5 things you’ll learn during the full episode:
- Why doubt can be good when completing a writing project
- The best ways to improve your writing skills
- Ways to make data and numbers easier for your audience
- Ken’s most valuable writing advice
- What roles emotions play in creating a complex story and how to leverage them
About Ken Melton
Hailing from Sweet Home Alabama, Ken is a retired U.S. Marine public affairs specialist with a master's in public relations from Georgetown University and a bachelor's in communications from the University of Maryland Global Campus. A firm believer in mentorship and leadership by example, he always seeks to help and teach others while continuing his professional and spiritual growth journey — a father of three girls and husband to one incredibly patient woman. He's enamored with all things public relations, employee engagement, storytelling, teaching, and writing. In his spare time, he reads, plays video games, and is an adjunct lecturer at JHU Whiting School Of Engineering.
- “Make your stories speak.” - @KenMelton2001
- “You can't let what you've thought or what you know shape your story. It's all about what's inside you and what you want to get across.” - @KenMelton2001
- “Once you come to the realization that there's nothing more I can learn, nothing more I can do wrong, then you're doing yourself disservice.” - @KenMelton2001
- “I doubt myself because I want to answer myself in a positive light.” - @KenMelton2001
- “I really love talking about it and helping people find their voice and telling how their stories are going to be, even if it's something like talking about a project.” - @KenMelton2001
- “Always write for the human reader first and then the search engine second.” - @JasonMudd9
- “I'm always telling people, it's easier to edit something that you've got to start with, or a foundation, than it is to start from scratch.” - @JasonMudd9
- “Don't be afraid to ask for help. You never know the answer you're going to get, but it gets you closer.” - @KenMelton2001
- “A piece of advice that's been helpful to me over the years that I try to give to others is while you're writing, visualize the one person that you are writing this to.” - @JasonMudd9
- “The best way to make somebody remember is to give them a story that relates to them. Tell that story that it tugs at the heartstrings.” - @KenMelton2001
- “When you have a memory, it's always tied to maybe even a sound or a smell. The same thing goes to your reading. When you read something, that one nugget and it brings you back, you're like, Oh, man, I remember that.” - @KenMelton2001
Additional Episode Resources:
- Ken Melton on Twitter
- Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory website
- Encouragement for your writing journey PRSA article
Additional Resources from Axia Public Relations:
- Newsjack your way into the spotlight
- Listen to more episodes of the On Top of PR podcast.
- Find out more about Axia Public Relations.
[02:33] Storytelling highlights from Ken’s career in the Marines
- Ken’s moonlight story
- Ken’s interview with 3 brothers recruiting into the Marines at the same time
Ken: “You can't let what you've thought or what you know shape your story. It's all about what's inside you and what you want to get across.”
[08:09] Why doubt can be good when completing a writing project
Ken: “Once you come to the realization that there's nothing more I can learn, nothing more I can do wrong, then you're doing yourself a disservice.”
Ken: “I doubt myself because I want to answer myself in a positive light.”
[10:54] Ken’s advice to students
Ken: “I really love talking about it and helping people find their voice and telling how their stories are going to be, even if it's something like talking about a project.”
- Ken stresses the tone of a paper
- “How you say things matter.”
- Think to yourself, “How would you like to address people in this message?”
Jason: “Always write for the human reader first and then the search engine second.”
[15:01] Most challenging part of Ken’s writing process
Ken: “Getting over myself and writing something down.”
Jason: “I'm always telling people, it's easier to edit something that you've got to start with, or a foundation, than it is to start from scratch.”
[15:59] What Ken’s writing process is like
- Music plays in the background
- Otis Redding and Sam Cook to be specific
- Writes early in the morning before 10 am
- Writes around 3-4 pm
- Writes late at night 9-10 pm because that’s when he writes the best
[18:02] Best ways to improve your writing skills
- Write more
- Read more
- Don’t try to write like anybody else
- Get an accountability partner
- Write different types of things
[20:06] Ways to make data and numbers easier for your audience
- Infographics - show the data
- Tell a story that emphasizes the data
- Word your data so it’s easily digestible to your audience
- ⅘ or 80%
[23:51] Most valuable piece of advice about writing
Ken: “Don't be afraid to ask for help. You never know the answer you're going to get, but it gets you closer.”
[25:23] What role do emotions play in creating a complex story and how can you leverage them?
- Try to think of a dramatic setting
- Use puns when you can
- Describe the situation if you were going to introduce this topic to your best friend
Ken: “Just talk about having the little back and forth banter. Just having that emotion because when you're talking to somebody that's close to you, especially, you'll get the small smiles, you'll get the smirks, you get the things like that. Or if you have somebody talking about food or anything else that they relate to, you can see their emotions. So when you're writing that down and you're relating it that way, people will see what you're feeling. They will see that emotion come through, and that'll make them want to read the story more, because it's more than words at that point. Now you take that text and you're making it almost visual to them.”
Jason: “A piece of advice that's been helpful to me over the years that I try to give to others is while you're writing, visualize the one person that you are writing this to.”
[27:43] What’s the relationship between memory and storytelling?
Ken: “The best way to make somebody remember is to give them a story that relates to them. Tell that story that it tugs at the heartstrings.”
Ken: “When you have a memory, it's always tied to maybe even a sound or a smell. The same thing goes to your reading. When you read something, that one nugget and it brings you back, you're like, Oh, man, I remember that.”
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Welcome to On Top of PR with Jason Mudd, presented by ReviewMaxer.
Hello, and welcome to On Top of PR. I'm your host, Jason Mudd, with Axia Public Relations. Today we're joined by a special guest, Ken Melton. Ken is a communications strategist with Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. Hailing from sweet home Alabama, Ken is a retired US Marine public affairs specialist with a master's in public relations from the Georgetown University and a bachelor's in communication from the University of Maryland Global Campus. He is enamored with all things public relations, employee engagement, the art of storytelling, teaching and writing. We want to welcome Ken to the show today. We're going to be talking about encouragement for your writing journey. Ken, welcome to On Top of PR. We're glad you're here.
Hey, thanks for having me. Love talking about this.
Yeah, me too. This is one of the favorite parts of my job. If I could figure out how to produce On Top of PR full-time, I would do it in a heartbeat, because we have a lot of fun doing it. So Ken, I found you because you wrote a great article for Public Relations Society of America's Magazine, PR Strategy & Tactics, and I really liked what you talked about there so I thought we would invite you to come on and talk to us about being a storyteller, your lessons learned for storytelling, and best practices of storytelling. Does that sound good?
Sounds great. Let's do it.
Perfect. Perfect. Just real quick, Ken, tell our audience in a couple of sentences, what do you do when you're not enamored with all things PR, employee engagement, storytelling, teaching and writing?
So I'm a father of three. I have a 10-year-old, an 8-year-old, and a 2-year-old, and we like to go camping and we like to play. Every night I'm seen like I'm playing with some doll, making up some TV show. Storytelling, storytelling, storytelling, even when I'm not. When I'm doing that, I like to serve in my church, I like to play video games. Starfield just came out, so I'll be spending [inaudible 00:02:14] amount of time playing that.
So you're a gamer? Okay.
I'm a gamer. I'm an Xbox gamer. And just checking out movies and reading as many books as I can find, some for education, some for entertainment.
Gotcha. Okay. Well, let's get this party started, Ken. Tell us, what are some of your storytelling highlights from your career with the United States Marine Corps?
Oh, man, there's so many good ones. I like to go back to... One of the stories is when, I called it the night moves because I like that song, but we actually had this really cool scenario where we had to basically run through this town, which I'm not going to name, but we had to run through this town doing coordinated knocks. We were going in looking for certain weapons and bad guys, and I was with them the entire time. We were just jumping over fences, going through people's houses, finding some things that shouldn't be there, and we covered a lot of ground and it was all at night.
So we were just going by moonlight and streetlight and just being able to tell that story, it was great, because I was there and I was trying to tell it through my eyes and I was like, "This is so fun." I mean, it's crazy, yeah. I could have been hurt or worse, but I wasn't because I made it back, but that was one of my most fun stories. The other fun story was, I was able to interview three brothers who all happened to be recruiting at the same time back in Alabama. They're all from Alabama. I actually went to recruit training with the oldest brother. So stories like that, it's actually seeing what Marines do. Seeing Marines as a family, as a real family and a family of our brothers. It's just great. I love telling stories like that.
That's very cool. As you start telling the story about your military activities, I started getting really excited. And earlier you mentioned that you're good at telling bedtime stories to your kids, and I can remember when my kids were younger. Mine are all college students now, so they're technically adults and all that, but they used to love it when I would tell them stories instead of reading them stories, and they always said my stories were more exciting, but I can already tell your stories are even way more exciting than mine are.
Well, maybe. I try to be humble. I mean, I think it's good and it's one of the things I write about is, you got to be imaginative. You can't let what you've thought or what you know shape your story. It's all about what's inside you and what you want to get across. I know what my audience is, which are my children, so when I'm telling them stories, I try to add in things that I've heard them say and kind of blend that into the story. I kind of make it a little funny because that's what they go, and I take that whatever I do. I want whoever's reading it to really enjoy it as I much enjoy writing it or telling it.
Yeah, for sure. A topic for another day is how kids have helped me and probably many others, and yourself included, become a better leader, for sure, because my management style changed significantly when my wife and I first started having kids because you see how they react and respond to encouragement, which again is, what we're here to talk about today, is encouraging words in your storytelling journey. So are there any stories that you regret not telling Ken? When you're thinking about telling stories, are there stories you regret not telling?
The one story that it always hurts to think about is a story that I failed to write. It was one of my first stories. I'm not going to say the gentleman's name out of respect to his family, but I was tasked with writing a story about him in his job, and the first time I told it, it wasn't very good so it didn't get published. Fast-forward, we ended up being in the same unit. We were out.
I would see him up, we'd always joke, and the last time I talked to him he was like, "Hey, you're supposed to write a story about me, Melton. When are you going to write a story about me?" I was like, "Don't worry, I'll do it next time." He's like, "Well, next time you see me I'll be dead." I was like, "Oh, whatever, whatever." And not even two weeks later after I took a photo of one of the last photos I took of him inside of a house, he died.
And I went to his memorial and I just fell down and I said, "I'm so sorry. I missed that chance to tell that story of who you are." And it hurt because I didn't do my job and I vowed, if I have a chance, I'm going to say yes, I'm going to do something. I'm not going to let it pass, because I don't know when the next time... When it could happen. I mean that was as much a situation than it is today. But just because it was more prevalent there doesn't mean it can't happen in any day.
Sure. Yeah. Absolutely. Well, and you could probably always go back and collect stories from people in your own story about him and your experience there for sure. But, yeah, that's definitely a good reminder that our time is fleeting and we should appreciate every minute we've got, Ken. All right, so let's see. So your article that I mentioned earlier, Encouragement for Your Writing Journey, in it you discuss doubt. Why do you think a healthy dose of doubt is good when you're embarking on a writing project?
I don't want to say that I have imposter syndrome.
Well, we all do according to research, but go ahead. Yeah.
Yeah. So once you come to the realization that there's nothing more I can learn, nothing more I can do wrong, then you're doing yourself disservice. I always find myself asking myself, "Hey, is this the right way? Do you think this is the right way you're doing this? Are you asking the right questions? Are you writing it the right way?" I doubt myself because I want to answer myself in a positive light.
That, "Yes, you can do this. Yes, you know what to do. Yes, you can do this. If not yes, then yes, you will learn how to do it." Because it goes back to, you have to believe in yourself, but you can't believe in yourself so much that you can't think that you can't fail. And I have to know that, yes, I may fail, but if I do fail, it's because I gave all and I left nothing behind, and I cannot be faulted for doing that, and that's better than either thinking I can do it and just dropping it all and not doing it at all.
Yeah, I love that. I love that. Well, Ken, like you, I've been doing this a while and I think I've been writing professionally for about 30 years. And today two things happened that really humbled me. One, I was asked to write some content within a spreadsheet or a Google sheet or Excel spreadsheet, and for whatever reason in this particular format, there's no spell check. And so I've asked a colleague to look at it. I've asked one of our copywriters to look at it, and it's loaded with all these spelling mistakes. And I'm like, "Oh, my goodness, this is so humbling, you be so dependent on spell check and it's just not even showing up."
Of course there's ways to work around that and we agreed we probably should have moved this document outside of a spreadsheet into a normal document, then pasted it back into the form. And then I'm also writing an article for Forbes Magazine about the importance of PR measurement, and I asked a trusted colleague of mine to review it, and she said it was fine. So I asked for more feedback and she was like, "Well, it'd be a lot better if you did these four things." And I was like, "Oh, my gosh, she's so correct." So today's been a humbling day for me when it comes to writing, and now we're talking about it in this way too. So your point really does hit home for me on that. So thank you for sharing that.
So you're also an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University Whittington, is that right? Whittington School of Engineering?
Whiting School of Engineering.
Whiting. Okay. Yes, of course. Whiting School of Engineering. Why did you land there, and what are some of the things you stress to your students?
We just started a new semester. I landed there. I had a very gracious boss who offered me a shot to say, "Hey, we respect you and your skills. You should look into this." So I looked into it and I was able to become an associate's professor over the last year and then an adjunct. And I really love teaching. I really love talking about it and helping people find their voice and telling how their stories are going to be, even if it's something as talking about a project. There's something to be said there to translate that. And so for me, I always stress tone. You want to close your eyes and when somebody's reading you something, you want to feel their inflections. You want to understand their emotions.
And one of the things I always stress out, because there's a lot of engineers and they're very smart people, it's like, "This is not a manual and it's not a textbook. When you're writing these memos, you're writing them to people. So think about how you would like to address people, making it collaborative, making it just engaging." Because you want people to read it, understand it, and when they walk away, they understand the points that you're trying to make, not just, "I read something because I had to read it, and that's the way they write it." So that's one of the biggest things I stress is tone. It's like, how you say things matter, just as much as the words you say matter. How you say them also matter. Also tell it to my daughter a lot. She's getting to that age where she has a little attitude sometimes. I'm like, "Hey, you got to watch your tone. You got to watch it."
Yeah. I learned from a consulting coach and consultant named Alan Weiss. He's notorious for saying that the words we use are so important, so choose your language wisely. And I'm always reiterating that to my own team. And when it comes to daughters, yeah, they can teach you a lot about attitude, body language and communication style and all that stuff as well, which is what I alluded to earlier. Having kids really taught me about the importance of language and how you speak to somebody as well. But it's all important and we're all getting better at it.
I was just thinking earlier too, one thing they teach you when you're writing for content for the web is to always write for the human reader first and then the search engine second. And sometime in the late '90s, early 2000s, everybody's just writing for search engines, and it was the humans come later. But really a big picture, long-term view is to always put the human readers first because search engines are getting smarter and smarter and more human-like and better understanding of what humans are looking for. So, yeah. So, Ken, while we're at this point, I'm going to jump into our quick break and we're going to come back on the other side and we're going to talk more about best practices.
You're listening to On Top of PR with your host, Jason Mudd. Jason is a trusted advisor to some of America's most admired and fastest-growing brands. He's the managing partner at Axia Public Relations, a PR agency that guides news, social and web strategies for national companies. And now, back to the show.
Welcome back to On Top of PR. I am Jason Mudd, and today we are joined by Ken Melton. Ken is talking with us today about storytelling and encouragement for your storytelling journey. And on the second half of this episode, we're going to focus on best practices. And so hopefully what becomes more of a rapid fire pace, I'm going to ask Ken some questions and we're going to get through as many of these that we can together as we finish out the second half of today's episode. So, Ken, what do you think is the most challenging part of your writing process?
Getting over myself and writing something down. Yeah, it's one of those things, like, "Oh, got to get out of..." I think about, "Can I do this? Can I do that?" No, just write something. Put pen to paper. I always say, put pen to paper, get something out there, if it's this word, bleh, and then clean it up. And if you do that, that gets you started. It's better to start that way than just sit there and just dread not having anything.
Yep. I'm always telling people, it's easier to edit something that you've got to start with, or a foundation, than it is to start from scratch. In another episode, we did a solo cast on generative AI and using ChatGPT, and that's one of the things I say is, it's a great starting point if you're just stuck to just get yourself going with some piece of content.
Okay. Next question. What is your writing process like? For example, do you play music while you write, or do you have to write in silence? And if you have music, what's your favorite type of music?
Even when I was deployed, and no matter where it is, I have music on me. I have to have it because I need something to drown out other noises because I can get distracted really easy. My two favorites... I listen to almost anything, but if I'm needing to start, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke. I have the first three years of Spotify, I think that was all that was playing because I was doing a lot of heavy writing and just having that put me in the zone. And I also have to know my writing rhythms. So I know early in the morning before 10:00, I'm like a machine. I'm just kicking it out.
Right around three to five o'clock, right before dinner, I'm good at writing then. And then late at night, 8:00, 9:00, 10:00, I know if I'm hitting that I'm really doing it, I'm really knocking some stories out. But if there comes any other time of day, I know that my rhythm is going to be like, "Eh, I'm bored," even with Sam or Otis playing, I'm like, "Eh, I'm bored. I don't want to do this." And I'm thinking about all these other things. But I know, if I need to write, get up early in the morning, then come back later in the afternoon, make sure I have my radio on and just focus.
Nice. I love that you know this about yourself. I just recently finished a book, then the concept was to figure out your times when you're at your most productive, and I really couldn't nail down a particular time that I think I'm at my best. I like to think I'm good all day long, but maybe not and I should spend a little bit more time thinking about that. So out of respect for our audience, you named the two artists that you liked the most and I kind of talked over the second one. So, in case they missed it, would you say the two artists again?
Otis Redding and Sam Cooke.
Okay, excellent. Thank you. Yeah, I appreciate that. All right, so what do you think is the best way to improve your writing skills?
You have to write more and you have to read more, and don't try to write like anybody else. I think that's what most people get trapped up, like, "Oh, I'm going to write this writer, or I want to impact these emotions." It's like, look within yourself, figure out your writing style and write more. Sometimes just write something for yourself and throw it away, and just continue to do that. Get an accountability partner. That's one of the hardest things, is getting somebody to tell you when things are great, when things are not so great, and things are just... Start over again. But it's good to have that bit of little push.
And write different types of things. I was talking to one writer who was just not comfortable in writing more of a very tech heavy piece, and I'm like, "It's okay. I didn't come here knowing how to write about..." When I was at USDA, I didn't know how to write about beans and stuff. I had to learn, but I got comfortable doing it. I got kids smart on the topic. It's just like anything else. People who can do this, they're talented. You're talented. You just have to trust yourself to make a mistake, and ask the questions and get better. And then the next day people are asking you for advice and you're like, "Oh, I'm no longer the rookie. Awesome."
Yeah. I remember there was a season in my career where I wasn't writing for about six months and when I went back to writing again, I was like, "Oh, my gosh, I'm not a good writer." And what happens is, you got out of practice, like you said. And the other thing we talk about is, we did another webinar actually about getting media coverage. And one of the things we talked about is, if you're not consuming news, you're not going to be good at pitching news.
If you're not keeping track of what's going on and staying in touch with society and the topics and trends in the news, how are you going to turn around and try to pitch news to a newsroom when you've lost touch with that set of skills, that observational skills, the ability to newsjack a story because you've been tracking it or you're very aware of it. So this next question I really like, which is, what are some ways to make data and numbers easily understandable for audiences?
So, like I said, I play video games. I'm also a Cobble Collector, and I'm a big fan of infographics, big fan of that. If you can make the numbers tell a story, then you have just changed the game, because one of the reasons people are so successful in their writing and getting things across is showing it, even it's as simple as a pie graph. I took some classes trying to emphasize more, just telling more the data. The data tells a story.
I saw this one cool example of, here's a bunch of data, which is a bunch of Legos, and here's a bunch of data. Then it's all the Legos are together. And then the story of the data is like, "Here's the Legos in this house set up and here's all the different points." I'm like, "See, that's how you tell a story." That the data is there, but build the fits, build a yard and build a house with that data. And if you can do it with imagery, if you can do it human audio, you're rock solid.
Right. Nice. I like that. You're reminding me of a debate we had just the other day, and I'm trying to recall the math in my head right now and I think I might fail at it, but it was something like, the question was four... I'm going to forget, but it was either four out of five people prefer this in the writing, or it was giving the actual percentage. And someone said, "I've always been told to avoid percentages." And I thought to myself, "Hm, I think the math is simpler if we do a percentage than if we say whatever it was, two out of five or four out of five." I forgot what the exact number was.
And so we had this little bit of a healthy debate about it, and I just said, "Well, you know what? It's your byline so you do what you think is right. We'll turn it over to our copy editor and if they have a different opinion, we'll follow their opinion." But I think you're right. Data and math scare people off a little bit, and so if you can tell it in a visual way or another way, that's very helpful. But I wish I could remember the exact number we were looking at because to me the percentage was so clear and simple, and now I'm just not remembering the exact number. But it was just interesting to have that conversation.
Cool. Yeah, I know. Sometimes these percentages is like, "But what does that mean to the person?" Unless it's one of those 99% type number, is one of those numbers that really stand out, I'm in the camp of, if it's not like a Marquee number, I would much rather see it in a different fashion, where it's like, two slices of pizza, open your box or something. "Oh, yeah, I get that."
Now that I had a minute to think about it, it was four out of five people prefer, or 80% of people prefer. And I was like, "Oh, 80% prefer all day long because I don't have to do the math to figure out what that number is." And then the other person was like, "Yeah, but I like to think of, if there's five people in the room, four of them feel this way." I'm like, "Okay, I can see both." But for me, I just jumped to the percentage.
Yeah. It's a personal preference. But I'm in definitely the camp where somebody says 80%, I'm like, "So how many people..." When you say four out of five people like, "Oh, yeah. Yep, that makes a lot of sense. Four out of my five basketball players are great. The other one, he's just there filling space."
Sounds like a fun thing for us to throw in our weekly LinkedIn poll to ask people which they would prefer.
All right, so let's see. Where are we here? What's the most valuable advice you've been given about writing?
This is a good one. I've had a lot of good mentors throughout the years. A lot of people who encouraged me. I think one of the biggest things is, don't be afraid to ask for help.
Oh, good. Yeah.
Writers, creatives, for that matter, we can get a little bit into ourselves, but knowing when to ask for help, to seek that additional guidance, it doesn't have to be somebody greater than you. I've had some great insights of writing from some junior people. They just think differently and I'm like, "That's great." And I didn't feel nervous or anything about it because I've come to this point where it's like, I don't know everything, but I know enough people that I can find out a lot of things. So I will ask who I think may be a good person and they may not give me the right answer, but they may get me on a path that I can actually get to where I'm trying to go. So that's one of the best use advice is, don't be afraid to ask for help. You never know the answer you're going to get, but it gets you closer.
Yep, yep. For sure. Like I mentioned in my examples today, I asked for feedback from two sources I normally don't go to. And I was looking for both of them to give me an easy blessing and they didn't go easy on me at all, but it was very helpful and hopefully made a better work product at the end of the day for everybody. Let's talk about emotions. What role do emotions play in creating a complex story and how can they be effectively leveraged in writing?
It really depends on the style of story writing. If you know the story is going to be a bit dry, I'm trying to think of a dramatic setting. I like doing puns for one thing. If I have a chance to throw a pun in a story, I'm throwing it in there because it makes part of your brain go like, "Huh? What just happened?" And then they pay a little bit more attention to it. Or I always like to ask the question, "If you were a superhero, how would you describe your superpower? If this was a sports team, what position would you play?" And then I always say, "Hey, describe the situation if you were going to introduce this topic to your best friend," things like that.
And then just talk about having the little back and forth banter. Just having that emotion because when you're talking to somebody that's close to you, especially, you'll get the small smiles, you'll get the smirks, you get the things like that. Or if you have somebody talking about food or anything else that they relate to, you can see their emotions. So when you're writing that down and you're relating it that way, people will see what you're feeling. They will see that emotion come through, and that'll make them want to read the story more, because it's more than words at that point. Now you take that text and you're making it almost visual to them.
Ken, I really like that answer and it reminds me of a piece of advice that's been helpful to me over the years that I try to give to others, which is, while you're writing visualize the one person that you are writing this to. Even if you're writing it to a collective group, think of that one person that you truly know that is representative by that persona, that audience or that avatar. And if you visualize that one person, I feel like just as you just said, the word flows a little bit easier, it feels more authentic and more connecting to that person who hopefully is representative of the audience or demographic that you're going after.
Yeah, most definitely.
Yeah. So, Ken, we've got time for one more question. And so the question I want to ask you is, what's the relationship between memory and storytelling? How can it be harnessed to create more impactful narratives?
So this is kind of like the comms nerd in me, just thinking about how oral histories have been a part of humanity from the beginning. Before we could write, we were telling stories to each other. That is so powerful that we're still doing that to this day. Even with written stuff, even with pictures on the wall, it all started with a story that somebody was telling. I was looking up some interesting things about griots from Africa and storytellers like that.
The best way to make somebody remember is to give them a story that relates to them. Tell that story that it tugs at the heartstrings. When you have a memory, it's always tied to maybe even a sound or a smell. The same thing goes to your reading. When you read something, that one nugget and it brings you back, you're like, "Oh, man, I remember that." And then remember, this thing that we're doing now is kind of new almost with the written word, but that spoken word that really helps with the memory, that is so key to tell your story. So make your stories speak. You have to.
I love that, Ken. That's some really good advice and certainly something I think that is really important. One of the advice I mentioned earlier, one of the articles I was writing for Forbes Magazine, the person said to me, "This would be even better if you actually told a story." And I was like, "What?" And so they're like, "You've got a lot of information, a lot of content, a lot of thought leadership here, but if you told a story of somebody who's had this experience before, or was helped through this experience, it would have a lot more impact." And it seems almost elementary to say that, but it was really that moment where I had forgotten or lost sight of that.
And I would ask you, Ken, if you know the answer to this, or I'll ask our audience, maybe they know, but in journalism there's a storytelling formula. I'd love to know the name of this, where the idea is you start small and you tell a story about somebody locally or somebody individually who this story's going to impact. And so you start small and then you go big and you talk about how overarching it's a trend or an issue that millions of Americans are dealing with. And then you end your story by going back to that first person's narrative account of their story and ending with them. So you see this a lot in newspaper, magazine and radio stories. Let's just say Sally is struggling to pay her rent because the cost of rent has increased so much since the pandemic.
And then you go to a big story and you say, "And research shows that this is happening to millions of Americans because the rental rates are up X percent compared to what they were this time a year or two ago." And then you end back to the story with the same character saying that she's trying her best to make ends meet and is optimistic that she's going to be able to find more affordable housing in the near future. That's some sort of storytelling formula that I think is very important for PR people and communicators to remember, even when they're not talking to the media, but when they're writing for themselves. I don't know what that term is called, but I'm going to put on my to-do list to figure it out. And maybe if you or one of our audience members knows that answer, they can holler at us.
Smarter person than me can answer that. I've seen it a million times. I just didn't think of what it was called. It's one of those things you do it, you just don't realize what is actually [inaudible 00:31:32]-
Yeah, yeah. But I'd love to have a name for that so we can talk about it internally and even maybe on a podcast episode about how to do that well and do that right. Ken, it's been an absolute pleasure having you be a guest On Top of PR with me today. How does our audience get ahold of you if they want to connect with you maybe on LinkedIn or maybe looking to taking one of your classes, or just ask you a follow-up question about our conversation today.
Please reach out to me on LinkedIn. I'm super easy to find. I think it's like linkedin.com/kenmelton. I think that's it. But if not, I'll make sure that I have it. But that's the best way to contact me is to send me a link on and say, "Hey, I saw you. I want to talk some more. Let's set up a chat." And I'm all about meeting new people, and I try to say yes to any new opportunity that comes my way.
Perfect. Perfect. Well, Ken, to that end, we will put a link in the episode notes to your LinkedIn so people can connect with you so they don't have to worry about writing down or figuring out what address they can find you at. But folks, when you connect with Ken, please make sure you send him a custom invite telling him that you heard him on On Top of PR so he knows you're not a spammer or somebody just trying to connect with him that doesn't really know him or know why he should connect with you. And that's a piece of advice I'd give to anybody.
If you're asking to connect with somebody on LinkedIn, nudge them as to how and why you heard of them and why you want to connect with them. And with that, I think we brought you another great episode of On Top of PR, another episode talking about the importance of storytelling for corporate communication and media relations and whatever else you might be doing. Every business person and non-business person can benefit from being a better communicator. And in order to be a better communicator, you need to be a great storyteller. So with that, we thank you for giving us the opportunity to help you stay On Top of PR.
This has been on top of PR with Jason Mudd presented by ReviewMaxer. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode, and check out past shows at ontopofpr.com.
- On Top of PR is produced by Axia Public Relations, named by Forbes as one of America’s Best PR Agencies. Axia is an expert PR firm for national brands.
- On Top of PR is sponsored by ReviewMaxer, the platform for monitoring, improving, and promoting online customer reviews.
About your host Jason Mudd
On Top of PR host, Jason Mudd, is a trusted adviser and dynamic strategist for some of America’s most admired brands and fastest-growing companies. Since 1994, he’s worked with American Airlines, Budweiser, Dave & Buster’s, H&R Block, Hilton, HP, Miller Lite, New York Life, Pizza Hut, Southern Comfort, and Verizon. He founded Axia Public Relations in July 2002. Forbes named Axia as one of America’s Best PR Agencies.
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