What PR lessons can we learn from St. Patrick? Quite a few, it turns out.
You see, St. Patrick was a legendary storyteller.
St. Patrick, the Storyteller
In the year 432 after the Pope made St. Patrick a Bishop, the King of Ireland invited him for a visit. The good St. Patrick had to figure out how to tell his story of faith to a large audience (the people of Ireland) that had never heard such a story (because most of the Irish people at that time were Druids) and he had to do it in such a way that people would be inclined to listen.
Effective Use of Illustration
St. Patrick knew that the Druids considered the shamrock to be a sacred plant because the leaves of the plant formed a triad. So, he used the shamrock as an illustration.
He explained that this sacred plant with three beautiful leaves was like the sacred mystery of the Trinity – God in three persons. You know what happened? Many people listened, and many believed. In fact, the King was so impressed, they say, that he immediately became a Christian, and then gave St. Patrick his permission to travel the country and tell everyone.
What does this have to do with Public Relations, you say?
Everything, I say. PR folk are bound to be professional storytellers. We are often given the responsibility of communicating a story to a large receiving audience, one that may not have heard our story before, and that may or may not be receptive.
Storytelling and Engagement that Leads to Conversion
Although marketing and communication pros may describe conversion in many ways (rather than the faith conversion in this example), like St. Patrick, we’ve got to reach out to those innovators and early adopters. We must remember to meet our audience where they are by using language and creative illustrations that the audience can relate to so the message is not just delivered, but received.
As communicators and brand ambassadors, our goal is to educate, inform and inspire in a way that will ultimately lead to measurable and meaningful change or action. So, we’ve got to take into careful consideration the communication style and informational needs of the receiving audience, and customize our messaging accordingly using language and symbols with a shared frame of reference.
When it comes to getting the word out, we could all take a cue from St. Patrick. Think about it!
Original Copyright March 2010, Tracy L. Teuscher
Edited by the author for Copyright March 2019, Tracy L. Teuscher