August 29, 2023
In this episode, Pam Fultz joins On Top of PR host Jason Mudd to discuss what purpose-driven storytelling is, why it’s important, why PR professionals should use these types of stories, and how to not push organizational agenda within these stories.
Tune in to learn more!
Pam Fultz, APR, is the senior community relations manager of Vi at Bentley Village, a retirement community in Naples, Florida. She is also an adjunct lecturer for the University of Florida and Northeastern University. She is a past president of PRSA’s Gulf Coast chapter.
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5 things you’ll learn during the full episode:
- What purpose-driven storytelling is
- Why purpose-driven storytelling is important
- How writers can pull at their audience’s heartstrings
- Why PR professionals should use mission-driven stories
- How to create purpose-driven stories without sounding too salesy
- “PR is not just about media coverage, it’s more.” - Jason Mudd
- “Stories are designed to make an emotional connection with people … and ultimately create brand loyalty.” - Pam Fultz
- “PR's role is not just external communication, it's also internal communication.” - Jason Mudd
- “You have to find the stories. You have to dig deep and find those connections.” - Pam Fultz
- Connect and learn more about Pam Fultz on LinkedIn.
- Visit Bentley Village’s website for more information.
Additional Resources from Axia Public Relations:
[01:33] What is purpose-driven storytelling?
Pam: “With purpose-driven storytelling, we dig deeper and tell more than just the who, what, where, when, and why of a story.”
Pam: “Stories are designed to make an emotional connection with people … and
ultimately create brand loyalty.”
Jason: “PR is not just about media coverage, it’s more.”
Pam: “You are telling stories and building relationships every day. That’s what we do as PR professionals.”
Jason: “Corporations can also be mission-driven.”
[06:50] How to advise a corporation telling purpose-driven stories
Examples include Patagonia, Apple, and Chobani.
[08:04] Why is this type of storytelling important?
Pam: “One of the courses that I teach for the University of Florida is focused on
measuring social change as public interest communicators. It is critical that
students learn the connection between emotion and data to create stories with
heart that highlights hard facts.”
[09:53] How can you guide a professional to include emotion in a story?
Pam: “Whatever communication job you're in, you want to be yourself. You have to find the stories. You have to dig deep and find those connections. Tie it back to specific people [audience].”
[12:56] What are ways writers can accomplish writing that pulls at the heartstrings?
- Go to the family and community
- Look at the person — what were their emotions?
- Look at their future plans
- Determine how these can be inspirations
[15:14] Why should someone utilize these types of stories as a PR professional?
Pam: “As communicators, we’re responsible for developing and maintaining credibility
with our audiences. One of the best ways to build those relationships is through
storytelling. Whether you’re communicating internally with colleagues or
externally with clients, customers, donors, or volunteers, telling stories based on
your organization’s mission lends appeal and enhances credibility.”
Pam: “As PR professionals, we all have stories to tell that emphasize our organizations’
missions. Supporters of our companies will also tell those stories. By engaging those supporters as brand ambassadors, we give them a sense of ownership and encourage their loyalty.”
Jason: “You're reminding us that PR's role is not just external communication, it's also internal communication. You're reminding us that PR's role again is not just getting sales, but it's creating support and it's creating advocacy.”
[19:09] How do you identify and position mission-driven stories without being too salesy?
- Endorsements from satisfied customers
- Testimonials from happy employees
- Accounts of how your organization adheres to its mission
- Highlight a charitable endeavor that benefited your community
- Discuss the positive impact your mission story has in society
Pam: “If your organization is mission-driven, then you can reinforce its stated purpose
in all of your internal and external communications. Stories complement these efforts, allowing you to connect with your audience on a personal level by appealing to their emotions.”
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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, and today we're talking about the benefits of purpose-driven storytelling. This is a topic I'm very passionate about. This is a topic that you should be passionate about if you work in public relations or you count on public relations to be successful. Our guest today is Pam Fultz. Pam is Community Relations Manager for Vi Senior Living, and she's also an educator and she is involved at the University of Florida. So Pam, welcome to the show. We're glad you're here.
Thank you so much. I really appreciate the opportunity, and I'm thrilled to be on your podcast, Jason. Have to say that not just University of Florida, but also Northeastern University in Boston too. I'm an adjunct instructor for both of them.
You are almost pretty much coast to coast from the North to the South, so I love it. Good for you. Yes. You're also past president of PRSA's Gulf Coast chapter, is that right?
That is correct. I currently serve as the DEI chairperson for the past couple of years for the Gulf Coast chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and involved with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
Look at you. You are a busy, busy woman. Congratulations on all of your accomplishments, and thank you for your service in the community. We're going to talk about purpose-driven storytelling. Let's set it up. Let's tee it up. What is purpose-driven storytelling, Pam?
Well, Jason, it's a really great question and one that I love to talk about because I think when we talk about telling stories for organizations, one of the keys is really if there's a purpose to make sure that the organization is not just saying they have a purpose, but also showing they have that purpose and being authentic about it when they are showing that they have the purpose.
As communications professionals, we're used to telling organizational stories and pitching them to media and getting those earned media placements with many of those narratives—we're just telling what's happening. Maybe there's an event, maybe there's a new product or service that we're trying to pitch and why that activity is happening. But with purpose-driven storytelling, we really dig deeper and we're telling more than just the who, what, where, when, and why of a story. So these types of narratives are crucial for not only nonprofit organizations, which for them it's really essential, but also beneficial to all organizations and companies across the board. Essentially, you're articulating your organization's mission and/or the core values, and you're using a well-defined story in order to do that and ultimately to influence your audience to a desired action.
So the action that we talk about, though, doesn't necessarily need to be to make a donation if it's a nonprofit or to buy a product or a service, although that could be your ultimate goal. It can be to gain trust and credibility, which is key to relationship building with stakeholders for the future. So these types of stories are really the differentiators for all organizations, setting them apart from their competitors, which is what we want to do, whether a nonprofit or a for-profit — what is it that you say that you do and you value, and then show how you stand by those promises and those values.
Stories are designed to make an emotional connection with people, as you know, and to ultimately create brand loyalty. So if you think about some of the biggest companies in the world, they have meaningful and profound stories of origination, and they may have been created for a bigger purpose than to just sell a product or service. When I think about some of these companies, the examples I think of are Apple or Patagonia, which focuses on sustainability, or Chobani, the yogurt company, but they really focus on hunger issues and they prioritize philanthropy, for example.
Okay, yeah, excellent. I love that. So first of all, I want to just emphasize one thing I heard you say because it's something I'm a big believer in, and that is number one, PR is not just about earned media coverage, right? Number two, when you're talking about measuring PR or talking about the outcomes that come from PR, sales is not always what you should be thinking about, right? It's brand management, it's reputation, it's getting donations, it's getting support behind the cause that you're advocating for. It might be just getting people to come work for you in your organization.
So I love that we're already starting out covering two of my pet peeve topics, which is PR is more than earned media, number one. Number two, it's not always PR driving sales. It's PR building comfort and trust in the markets that you want to be in that will impact your success.
Absolutely, and I agree with you wholeheartedly, Jason, because I mean, when you think about it, you are, I always like to say — in communications, really you are telling stories and building relationships every day. That's what we do as communications professionals. So it's not just for today and making a sale for today of a product or a service or getting that earned media placement on the activity or the event that we hosted. It's building those relationships and looking toward the future. When it comes to nonprofit organizations, they have that purpose to share. For example, with one of the organizations you mentioned that I work for, the mission is to provide quality environment, services, and programs to enrich the lives of older adults.
So some of the purpose-driven stories the company tells really center on how these older adults are trying to stay active and remain vibrant, often giving back through their talents and their time to their local community. One of the nonprofits I support, again, I mentioned the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the organization there highlights its commitment to protecting the water, land, wildlife in Florida, again, through stories showcasing its actions, which are in line with its mission, hoping to draw people in, get them interested, and then build that relationship so that maybe in the future they'll have a bigger relationship with them. They might want to come and volunteer, donate, etc.
Yeah, I love that, Pam. I also love the idea — and I think this has taken off in the last five or 10 years — that corporations can also be mission-driven. Corporations can also be purpose-driven. When you think about your why and wanting to recruit people to come work for your organization and retain employees, I find that the best employers, whether they're for-profit or nonprofit organizations, they're tying what they do every day into a purpose and into a mission.
How might you advise, Pam, I'll put you on the spot here a little bit, a corporation who wants to create a purpose-driven or mission-driven messaging, but they're not a nonprofit organization?
Well, it really starts from the top. I think that you have to build that culture and build it into the company. So it's very vital. I know the corporation I work for, that there are strong core values and a mission. So I think I would advise the organization to look around and see what other organizations similar to them are doing. I mean, it's essential to, I would hope that they have a mission statement already, to get that out and to talk about it with the employees.
Pam, you mentioned earlier Apple and Patagonia. Can you give examples of how they're really good at being purpose-driven in their storytelling?
Well, and I think if you look back again just at the origination for both of these companies, and Patagonia has always been devoted to the environment and sustainability, one of the other ones that I mentioned as well was Chobani, a yogurt company, but yet they have a strong arm of their foundation and philanthropy. So they're really focused on trying to make the community better as well.
So, Pam, why is this type of storytelling important to you in your profession as an educator, a PR practitioner, and a volunteer?
Well, I work in community relations, as you mentioned, and education. I also volunteer with several nonprofit organizations. So for me, it's critical to use this type of storytelling in all capacities, whether it's talking to professional contacts and potential prospects or possible donors or the graduate students. One of the courses I teach for the University of Florida is actually focused on measuring social change as public interest communicators. So it's critical that the students learn the connection between emotion and data to create stories with heart that really highlight the hard facts. Again, being authentic and making sure that they're telling the stories of the organizations.
Okay. Yeah, I like that. Internally at Axia, we're always talking about this idea of how do you appeal to your audience's heart and mind simultaneously, and some people are going to be neutral, kind of a little bit of both, and some are going to lean towards more data points and others are going to think more about emotional points. So I always try to say do your best to address both of those audiences in all of your communication. Is that something you pass on to your students as well?
It is, absolutely. I think if you think about some of the best stories that you've seen, they really tug at the heartstrings, but there is an ultimate goal there, and it does give hard information and facts, and it's tying back to the organization's mission and their goals as well.
So, Pam, if you're a member of our audience, I know I face this in our organization, if you're asking somebody, "Hey, write this article or write this content with a little bit more heartstring and a little bit more emotional," how might you guide a student or a professional who's kind of struggling to get that out of them or to find that inside the story?
That's a really great question. This goes back to one thing that we didn't mention. I have a background in news broadcasting, so I spent about a dozen years in telling those types of stories. I was on the other side a bit. So you want to go back and when you talk about telling those stories, whether you're in news broadcasting, you're in public relations, whatever the communications is, you want to be personal. So you have to find the stories, dig deeply and find those personal connections.
Typically, you are actually looking for an example. It's people. When you see any of the nonprofit organizations nationwide and they're telling stories, well, they're not just saying that, "Look at us, we have this new product or service, or we have this new technology." No, they're saying, "We have this new technology that can now help these people." So you want to make sure that you're tying it back to specific people. That's where you're going to touch the heart and then draw the emotion.
Okay, excellent, excellent. That's a good example, Pam. We're going to take a quick break and come right back on the other side. I'm going to ask you a couple of follow-up questions about that. I'm looking forward to it.
You are 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. Now back to the show.
Welcome back to On Top of PR. We're joined today with Pam Fultz, and we're talking about purpose-driven storytelling. Pam, as promised, I've got some follow-up questions for you about that. So as you were talking, I was thinking a little bit or quite a bit about the idea of we have a scholarship that we do every year, and every year we tend to give the opportunity to one of our entry-level employees to create the communication about the scholarship, and they do a good job of kind of reporting the facts: We're giving a scholarship. We do it every year. It's given through the Public Relations Society of America Foundation. It's designed to recognize a student who has achieved significance in their early career as a student, but it's also based on financial need.
What I always find when I see the first draft of this is it lacks the empathy, it lacks the emotional tie, it lacks the pulling of the heartstrings. We give away the scholarship because we believe in advancing the profession. We believe in giving back to the profession. When I was a college student, I had to pay my way through school. So now that I own a business and I'm enjoying success, I want to give back as well. So we don't want to overemphasize the individual's financial situation, but we want to paint a picture demonstrating to the rest of the world that candidly, we're doing good things and giving back and helping others and paying it forward.
Pam, what advice would you give to us and to these writers who maybe for the first time ever are being asked to kind of write something from the heartstrings, and what are some of the ways they could accomplish that, do you think?
Well, I think this is an excellent example of a story, Jason, where you really could tie into that. I will say, like you, I also paid my way through college, so I know how important it is to get an education. But when you're looking at that specific example, I mean, you're going back and you're starting from the beginning. You go back and you talk to the family and you find out how important it was to the mom and the dad. Maybe this was the first person in their family to ever go to college or to be able to get a four-year degree. This, I'm sure, is extremely important to them. It's important to their brothers, their sisters, to their grandparents. And then to look at the person and how it was for them, how excited they were when they found out that they were going to be able to go to college, and then fast-forwarding and looking at their future plans.
I mean, just tying all of that together, and that really shows what it means to not just, okay, here's this person who has a degree — but it means a lot to not just one person but an entire family, and that that person will then be an inspiration hopefully for other students who think that maybe they could never get to that point. Maybe there are students out there thinking and they're in high school and they see this, and they never really thought about going to college, but you are giving them an opportunity and an avenue to be able to do so, and they're inspired by this person. I think that's what we really want to do as well when we talked about this, right? We want to inspire people and we want to inspire them to take action in some way, shape, or form.
I love everything you said there and we're creating an even brighter economic future for this student and the family that they're surrounded by and the community that they're working in, because we know that an educated workforce creates more jobs and more opportunities and better generational opportunities for their family and their community. So that's really good advice, Pam. Thank you for sharing that.
Absolutely. It's just the beginning, really, if you think about it from that perspective.
Yeah, for sure. Okay, so why should someone, corporation or organization, for-profit, not-profit, utilize these types of stories as a PR practitioner?
Well, I would ask people to think about what is the mission of the organization or business for which you work. If you're asked to communicate that mission in a story, instead of just reciting it verbatim, which most of us should be able to do, how would you do it? As communicators, we're responsible for developing and maintaining credibility with our audiences. First of all, we have to know who the audience is, but then we have to create and maintain credibility with them. One of the best ways to build those relationships is really through storytelling. Whether you're communicating internally, which we've talked about with employees, or externally with clients, customers, donors, or volunteers, telling stories based on your organization's mission really lends appeal and enhances credibility.
Mission statements are designed to guide a company's operations and provide a basis for its goals. Typically, it's just a few short sentences spelling out what an organization does and why they do it. Well, these written objectives may be concise, but communications professionals and organizational leadership can really magnify these principles if they're telling compelling stories. Stories are what brings your company's purpose statement and your core values to life. These narratives are providing tangible examples of your organization's beliefs while also evoking those emotions that we talked about that connect with the audiences. So employees and customers seek validation for their choices about where they work or the business they prefer. We all know that, right?
We'd like to say that somebody else we know works at XYZ Company and they love it, so I'd like to work there too. Or they want to validate that they go to Starbucks for coffee every day, and some of their friends do as well. When inspired by an organization's purpose, employees and customers are more inclined to tell others about their positive experiences. I find it interesting too, there was a study done in 2020 by a communications group that found consumers are more likely to trust, buy from, champion, and protect companies that demonstrate strong purposes. So the study also found that millennial and generation Z consumers are the most supportive of brands that uphold a stated mission or a purpose, and those are really the consumers for the future. So we want to be able to try and to reach them.
As PR professionals, though, we all have stories to tell that emphasize our organization's missions. Supporters of our companies will also tell these stories if they're inspired to do so, and we have to inspire them, right? By engaging these supporters as brand ambassadors, we really give them a sense of ownership and we encourage loyalty. So when they feel more connected to a company and to its cause, they'll be happy to spread the word and to share their own stories for us, which is even more helpful.
Yeah, yeah. I love this, Pam. It's very good because in addition, you're reminding us that PR's role is not just external communication, it's also internal communication. You're reminding us that PR's role again is not just getting sales, but it's creating support and it's creating advocacy. You're also reminding us, if this isn't clear to our audience, that the messaging that you take to market should be focused on your audience, not on yourself. So to that end, without pushing an organizational agenda, how do you identify and position mission-driven stories within your organization?
Absolutely. I'll answer that in just a minute, but just to back up a second to what you were saying though, Jason, in my company, it is one of those things that we talk about a lot. If there is a positive news story, earned media that's put out there, we try and share it across the board. We share it with employees, we share it with residents, we share it with external stakeholders because, again, it is really driving loyalty and there's that sense of loyalty to the company for them, and they're excited to be affiliated with that organization.
So back to making sure that you are positioning these stories and not really pushing an organizational agenda or being too salesy, as we might say, what kinds of stories resonate with your patrons, with your audience? They're really different for everyone. The answer will still follow some basic guidelines. For example, endorsements from satisfied customers. They will help persuade potential customers to consider your company. Also, testimonials from happy employees, again, encouraging job seekers to explore work opportunities at your organization but also inspiring that pride and that allegiance from your current employees.
You can also share accounts of how your organization adheres to its mission. Maybe you're highlighting a charitable endeavor that benefited your community or detailing an internal DEI initiative that your organization implemented. So to communicate your company's mission in a story, you might describe how it makes a positive contribution to society as a whole. If your organization is mission-driven, you can reinforce its stated purpose in all of your internal and external communications, and stories complement these efforts, really allowing you to connect again with your target audience on more of a personal level by appealing to their emotions.
Excellent. Pam, this has been a great conversation. As we're wrapping up, I just want to ask you if there's anything else you'd like to share and or how might our audience connect with you online outside of this episode?
Well, I love telling stories and I love building relationships, so I would be thrilled to connect with anyone outside of this podcast. So I appreciate the opportunity, and they're welcome to do so. I am on LinkedIn and I believe that you will probably be sharing my LinkedIn profile.
If not, you can find me on Pam Fultz on LinkedIn and send me a message. I would love to connect and to learn more about the stories that you are telling.
Oh, great. Yeah, Pam, I appreciate you sharing that and offering that. I would just recommend our audience, when you offer to connect with Pam, customize your invite so she knows, one, you heard about her from On Top of PR, number one, because that's important to everybody. Two, that'll establish your credibility a little bit more and help her understand why you're reaching out. But use that custom invitation message there to stand out from all the unsolicited offers that Pam might get, or just people who just say connect and you don't really know why they're offering to connect.
So, Pam, it's been a pleasure having you. I learned a lot from this episode. I'm excited to share it with our audience. To our audience, if you've enjoyed this episode, also please take a minute and share it with a colleague or friend you think would benefit from it because over here at On Top of PR, we are working hard to help you stay on top of PR. So thank you for tuning in today.
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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