A Lesson in Stickiness: The Holmes Report In2 Summit

By Michelle Favalora

The Hoffman Agency, San Jose

Last week, I had the privilege of volunteering for Day 1 of The Holmes Report In2 Summit.

With the ink still wet on my “PR professional” nametag, it was thrilling to witness communication bigwigs commenting on industry trends firsthand.  

Between volunteer shifts, I was able to sit in on a few of the sessions, and one in particular continued to resonate with me throughout the rest of my work week – big data, specifically the message of Facebook’s Michael Buckley.

And I’m not the only one that felt the impact … 

Storytelling Techniques From Holmes Report

I saw a handful of speakers that day, communication innovators in fact, but only one stuck with me. Why?

Buckley employed strategic storytelling techniques to captivate his audience and leave us hanging on his every word.

Let’s explore a few of Buckley’s techniques to determine what we can do, as PR professionals, to make our messages stickier.

1)      Play into Brand Recognition

If you work for a big brand, like Facebook, you can walk into a room and attract attention effortlessly. People want to hear from big names to gain insight into what brought about their success.   

Don’t have a big name? Establish one by giving yourself a colorful introduction – or ride on the coattails of another brand with company values that you respect. Coming equipped with quotes or stories from a well-respected source can pique audience interest. Though make sure to have your own point of view or “spin” to prevent losing your own brand identity in the shuffle. 

2)      Establish Conflict

During the session, Buckley read The New York Times’ privacy policy, exposing the publication’s very public use of users’ information to an audience consisting of media professionals and (drum roll, please) panel moderator Quentin Hardy of The New York Times.

Exposing a trusted brand’s disclaimer to create dramatic effect? Been there, done that.

Doing so in front of a representative of said brand? Priceless.

Audiences appreciate conflict because it triggers an emotional reaction and engages them in the story that is being told. To successfully employ conflict in your own communication, you must be willing to take risks – even be controversial. It’s not enough to settle for the status quo.

3)      Revamp Examples

It’s common knowledge that facts and opinions come to life accompanied by an example. We prep our clients to insert personal stories into their interview responses and other media communications. However, these examples need a makeover.

Every panelist and moderator cited examples that day, but Buckley’s stood out in particular. 

He compared the current big data scare with America’s initial attitude towards Caller ID, explaining that most people were originally alarmed by the thought of others knowing they were on the line. But eventually, people came to grips with the new technology – and big data will follow a similar pattern.

Unlike the other examples, Buckley’s use of Caller ID stood out because it was:

  • Concrete: This is something we can “see” versus an idea we need to “grasp.”
  • Relatable: We’ve all come into contact with Caller ID at some point in our lives.
  • Unique: Most of us have never heard of such a comparison before.


When preparing for your next media interview or presentation, consider these three key concepts to create a message with enduring impact: brand recognition, conflict and a fresh take on the example. Although we may not have access to the Facebook brand cachet like Michael Buckley, we can still utilize his messaging techniques to entice an audience.



To catch a list of all the In2 SABRE award winners (including The Hoffman Agency’s City of Fremont team), please click here.

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