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Published Veröffentlicht 29/05/2024

Of Love… and PR

By Mini Hughes

Not that long ago, I had the pleasure of attending a stunning and flawless wedding at a resort in Palm Springs, California. It was the epitome of what I always imagined a Californian wedding would be: palm trees, a balmy night, poolside reception, twinkling bistro lights… the full shebang. As my mother back in the U.K. commented when I sent her some photos, “Looks like you’re on a set in Hollywood!”

And so it was, a bit of a fairytale.

Two of my very best friends (from the yonder days of a past agency life) celebrated their love in a picture-perfect union officiated by yet another PR agency friend – who wove us all a beautiful, funny and emotional tale about the couple’s love. Given the said couple met at work, we were surrounded by a flock, gaggle or swarm (whatever the collective noun for a group of PR pros is) of communication specialists. And if we didn’t all know each other beforehand, we all became fast friends by the end of the weekend.

From agency leads to senior in-house communicators, to past mentors and mentees, to international public affairs reps who had traveled halfway around the world to be there, the place was abuzz with high energy, laughter and the thing that captured me most – good stories. 

We all knew how to tell a good story.

The thing I noticed most were these captivating storytellers that surrounded me all weekend. With our industry changing every day, and GenAI’s profound effect on all we do as communicators, being in the presence of top-notch communicators in an informal environment made me think more about this art of storytelling – and how we cannot afford to lose it.  

Whether factual or fictional, telling stories is an intrinsic human characteristic and, I believe, an irreplaceable skill. It’s what we bring to our kids at bedtime, to our communities when running for a seat on the PTA or local council, and certainly, if you work in my industry, to our clients and prospects every day.

A good story can either be complex and layered OR simple – but it must elicit some kind of emotion: laughter, tears or a sudden desire to spend money; it all counts.

Fun fact: I spent a significant period of my childhood in the ‘90s growing up in the small Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, which was at that time closed to most media – no TV, no radio. A singular weekly newspaper is all we were exposed to. A large part of that culture was instead based on a rich tradition of oral storytelling. In Bhutanese culture, telling stories is such an important part of their lives that they don’t even have a word for “storytelling.”  I learned more recently that when a kid asks a parent  “tell me a story,” in Bhutan the literal expression is “please untie a knot.”  That concept speaks to this idea of peeling away at the layers of a story, revealing the narrative little by little to eventually get to one simple, emotive truth.

So, as my two good friends tied the knot, our officiant friend untied their storytelling knot, telling a nuanced story about the couple’s relationship, their personalities their journeys all to land on the one simple truth: their love for each other.  While I’m sure ChatGPT can spit out a fine wedding speech that would get you laughs (and maybe even tears), the telling of these stories, the nuances of context and the ability to humanize rhetoric is an age-old skill that I desperately hope we can hang on to.

As someone who “does words” for a living, we already see our industry changing significantly with the advent of GenAI, and many of these changes are ones we fully embrace. However, retaining the ability to tell authentic, compelling nuanced stories complete with tone, tenor and emotion, both in our professional work and personal lives, is a skill that remains highly relevant and will stand the test of time.

Or perhaps I’m taking an overly romanticized view of our future as storytellers?

After all, I did just attend a wedding, and weddings will do that to you.

What do you think?

When was the last time you told a great story?  

Mini Hughes is a Senior Vice President in the Technology Practice in San Francisco. She has almost 20 years of agency experience gained in the US and the UK, focusing mainly on corporate, tech, and sustainability campaigns. When not writing comms programs for her clients, Mini is focused on honing the communication, negotiation, debating, and diplomacy skills required to raise two young children in the SF Bay Area.

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