We recently interviewed Paul Furiga, president and chief storyteller of WordWrite, a strategic communications firm in Pittsburgh. WordWrite focuses on B2B clients in healthcare, manufacturing and professional services. Paul’s book, Finding Your Capital S Story, Why your Story Drives your Brand, publishes this month.
A veteran of four decades in journalism and PR, we caught up with him on the importance of sharing what he calls your Capital S Story in the information-overloaded marketplace of ideas that PR pros face.
Tell us how storytelling came to be the focus for you and your agency?
I spent two decades in journalism before I entered agency work. I covered everything from murders and abuse investigations to Congress and the White House. I wrote more than 10,000 stories. As an editor, I helped shape another 10,000. That prepared me well to work with organizations who need to share their best story to drive results. When I started WordWrite in 2002, we put all that storytelling firepower to work. As we infused story into everything we did, we developed the concept of the Capital S Story, the story above all other stories. Every organization has a Capital S Story, it’s the story that answers why someone should buy from you, work for you, invest in you or partner with you.
Tell us about your book — why did you write it?
Finding Your Capital S Story is the sum of a lot of storytelling lessons. It provides a roadmap to storytelling success for business leaders who don’t understand why their marketing doesn’t reflect the true character of their company, who wonder why their marketing doesn’t get better results, and who don’t understand how to get results from marketing. You can learn more here: https://www.wordwritepr.com/find-your-capital-s-story. You can buy the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Finding-Your-Capital-Story-Drives/dp/1733032207/
What experiences have most shaped your professional outlook?
A few stand out. First is the importance of authenticity in sharing your story. Second is having the right storytellers sharing that story. And third is continually ensuring that your story is engaging the audiences you want to reach. Success comes when you share your Capital S Story from a place of truth, use experts who know you best to share it and constantly measure engagement with your audiences to ensure they participate in it.
How has COVID-19 affected the ability of PR pros to share their story?
This global pandemic, the economic troubles it spawned, and the social justice concerns we’ve seen have created multiple challenges for PR pros, their organizations and clients. (You can add in the presidential election and climate change too.) The combination of these factors means it’s never been more important to share your authentic Capital S Story. The audiences we want to engage are riding a storm-tossed ocean of vitriolic overload. They’re looking for beacons of truth in a roiling sea of confusion. Your Capital S Story is the most powerful marketing asset you own. It’s never been more important to share that story than now.
How do you advise PR professionals to navigate this time of uncertainty?
Uncovering, developing and sharing your Capital S Story is critical. In our work, we align our clients’ Capital S Story with classic storytelling archetypes to create what we call synaptic shortcuts. A synaptic shortcut is especially valuable now, when the brains of your audiences are stressed beyond belief, and their comprehension skills are sorely tested. A great example of a classic storyline is David versus Goliath. If your organization is the little guy taking on the giant, you don’t have to be a Biblical scholar to understand that storyline. You can streamline and empower your marketing and PR with these sorts of storylines because they require no explanation. The best stories and archetypes can be understood regardless of culture, education or economic attainment. That’s why they stand the test of time.
A contemporary example would be Southwest Airlines and its storytelling. Since its founding, Southwest has played the part of the outlaw archetype, much like a modern-day Robin Hood advocating for the everyperson traveler, freeing them from unnecessary baggage fees and other constraints that made travel difficult (back when we were still traveling).
As someone who comes at PR with a background as a writer and journalist, are there any storytelling words of wisdom you can leave with us?
Well, I have so many that we do a weekly storytelling quote! Here’s one that’s timeless, from the science fiction author Ursula Le Guin, who wrote more than 20 books, including A Wizard of Earthsea: “The story — from Rumpelstiltskin to War and Peace — is one of the basic tools invented by the human mind for the purpose of understanding. There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.”
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