David Landis
David Landis

Having worked in the field for nearly 40 years, I’m asked many times, particularly family members, “What is public relations?”

According to the Public Relations Society of America, “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” Public relations can also refer to the act of managing communication between organizations and the public.

But what does that really mean?

In simple terms, I believe it means helping businesses find their voice and tell their stories.

I’m a PR pro who circuitously came to the field by training as a professional musician and then transitioning to journalism. Along the way, stories came to me naturally, but for many, storytelling is a challenge.

So, how can you better tell your own story? Here are seven easy-to-implement tips:

Do your research

To be able to tell a good story, you first have to do your research. Find out as much as you can about your company. What’s different about it? What’s unique, innovative or a first? Talk to people at all levels of the company, from the security guard to the CEO, and find out something that makes you think, “Wow, I never knew that.”

Find your voice

The way Apple talks to its audience is going to be different than the way Walmart talks to its audience. Is your company more buttoned up or more breezy? Is your brand’s voice more feminine or masculine (or some other gender identity)? Ask yourself questions such as, “What is my company’s true voice?” and “How can I be authentic?”

Identify your business’s ‘why’

I use this approach when I help clients with messaging. Rather than talking about what you do, talk about why you do it, and what your business believes. Get to the root of the “why” and don’t just describe the “what.”

Determine how your business has helped others

Don’t just talk “inside baseball” to your own community. Think outside the box. How has your business helped others in the community — not just your own bottom line?

Make it a good story

When I put on my journalist hat, I remember the qualities that make for a good story. Is it news? Is it truly different? Is it a first or something unique? Is there something innovative about what you are doing? Don’t just drink the company Kool-Aid. Figure out what truly differentiates your business.

Decide who can best tell your company’s story

A story is only as good as the person who is telling it. Find the right spokesperson who can communicate that story and be credible. Figure out whether your story would be better told by a woman or a man, a customer or a partner. Often, the best person isn’t the CEO.

Celebrate success

Success stories are always good stories. Find the ones within your company that have elevated your customers, clients or partners. And rather than telling the story yourself, have them tell the story.

What do you think makes for a good story? Feel free to comment below, Tweet me @david_landis or email me at: [email protected].


David Landis is President of San Francisco-based Landis Communications Inc., one of the Bay Area’s top independent public relations, marketing, social media and digital agencies.