If there’s one thing the globally-anticipated season finale of Game of Thrones has taught us, surely it’s the unrelenting importance of the story?

Yes, despite a $90m budget, world-class stars and awe-inspiring CGI wizardry, HBO’s most watched show of all time failed to deliver – in catastrophic proportions – as it headed to its final conclusion all because it lost its plot.

Oh the irony, as cast-favourite Tyrian Lannister delivered his last iconic speech, ‘There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story. Nothing can stop it. No enemy can defeat it’ as viewers watched the TV adaptation of George R.R Martin’s epic fantasy plummet into a hot mess of unrealistic character subversions and limply satisfying resolutions (turns out Jon Snow really didn’t know anything)

Here in the public relations world, and the principle remains the same. Of course, it’s great if your client has the budget for big ideas; an event, a celeb, maybe a stunt, some kind of experimental element, research…. But while it can be all too easy to jump aboard the creativity train, it is important to remember that the best PR campaigns and strategies tend to hinge on a great story.

More than ever now, in fact, a good story is essential to creating cut-through amid growing digital fatigue and information overload. Done well it allows businesses to be seen to go beyond their commercial objectives in a way which moves and inspires, connecting them with their public on a human level.

The key lies in evoking emotion. It could be happiness, sadness, sympathy, fear, shock. The idea is to make people feel something, to evoke an emotion which they will then come to associate with the brand creating a memorable affinity between business and customer.

To do this well typically requires going beyond product, just leaving enough for gentle brand association. A good example is Dove. Tapping into the escalating issue of low self-confidence amongst women, coupled with a creeping gender inequality drive and the personal care brand launched ‘Real Beauty’ – a powerfully emotive research-based campaign designed to help women of all walks of life to feel good about themselves. Fifteen years on and Real Beauty continues to etch Dove in our minds as a brand that is redefining beauty, that celebrates our differences, that ‘cares’.

A more recent example comes from YO! Sushi. To more adequately reflect its expanding offer, the Japanese street food outlet was changing its name to simply ‘YO!.’ However this wasn’t exactly headline-grabbing stuff. Cue the CEO announcing a name change to“YO!SushiRamenKatsuStirfry CurryBaoBurgerGyoza-FriesYakisobaMochiBalls-FriedFriedChickenPopcornShrimpBeefTeriyakiChocolateBrownie”along with an accordingly rebranded Richmond store – only to be quickly replaced to a more fitting ‘YO!’ upon customer confusion. The result? Disruption, humour, a funny story which stopped people in their tracks, amused while acquainting them with the new proposition.

On the advertising front, McDonalds also continues to do this well. Tired of the high prices and snobbery associated with overly pretentious coffee shops? Go to McDonalds. Running late to a wedding and want a quick eat without the fuss? McDonalds, of course. The fast-food giant continues to work so well at positioning its brand as a warm, dependable staple of everyday life that you almost forget all about the negative health connotations.

While there are too many great examples to recall, the point remains the same – if your comms strategy is going to make the cut it needs a powerful story; one that resonates with the target audience, stimulates their feelings, ideas and attitudes. It’s about taking the customer on a journey which ultimately, and often unknowingly to them, edges them towards the commercial goal and, in turn, creates a happy ending for your client.

Talking of story telling and happy endings why not read my Whistle blog about Christmas Advertising and why we loved Edgar  

(Images courtesy of the Verge and Dove)

Lyndsey Trengrove is a Senior Account Director at Whistle PR which offers a range of integrated communications services including strategic consultancy, PR, social media and internal communications. For further information email info@whistlepr.co.uk or contact us here.