A mouse, a librarian, storytelling and great PR

by PR Coach on February 6, 2012

Mouse in a library

A Muenster mouse tale goes viral

What do you get when you bring together a mouse, a librarian, social media and some great storytelling?

An absolute avalanche of media and social media coverage and not a strategy in sight!

This public relations story opens in the most unlikely place, an obscure journal for librarians in a column called Emerging Challenges written by German medical library director Oliver Obst.

He recounts his mouse tale with an entertaining story style of his own. It all starts with the discovery of a tiny mouse in the Muenster Library on New Year’s day 2011:

“… in the early morning, a disaster descended on the library: The alarm went off, warning that there was an intruder in the library. Immediately the clinic fire brigade crew and three (!) police patrol cars were on their way, with screeching tyres and wailing sirens. At the same time, the shrill tones of the telephone woke up the Director of the library. Half asleep, he received the message: Burglar in the Library! As he frantically dressed, thoughts flashed through his mind: “Is there really a burglar or has lightning triggered the alarm? Did he in fact leave a window open and maybe a bird flew in? Did the cleaning lady once again forget to turn off the alarm?” But a few minutes later the all-clear is given: a mouse has been identified as the culprit….”

A classic slow news day if there ever was one. It gets even better as Obst sets out to build a better mouse trap of a story. This is one media-savvy library director.

” So far, so good. Here the story could have ended. No one would have heard anything more about the mouse. The library would have gone back to its everyday routine – many would have wished this. But not the library director: in his imagination, hordes of rodents were appearing, playing cat and mouse with the burglar alarm and getting him out of bed at all hours. He rightly was worried about his well-earned sleep. That was the top priority now! He presented his version of events (Google’s Translation) on the homepage of the library and threatened the demise of the mouse:

“The mouse will no longer be tolerated: the library as a rodent asylum is finished!”

Herr Obst recounts how the local media picked up and ran with the story taking it from regional to national and farther. All thanks to some great instincts, creativity and the power and immediacy of social media. For instance, the mouse begins to tweet her fears and story on Twitter:

The Library mouse tweets

PR tweet heard round the social media world

This roughly translates, thanks to Google Translate, as:

The library mouse @ The library mouse
(Follow)
Oh, I think I’ve pushed too hard in the @ ZBMed. Now everyone knows that I exist …”

Through Obst’s entertaining storytelling, we follow the twists and turns of the little mouse and how the library, with some help from social media supporters, took the tale viral. She tweets passionately. We can’t resist her charm and her story.

Not surprisingly, a sympathetic Facebook group pops up. More interviews. More headlines. Faster than a mouse chased by Garfield the cat.

I mean this story had all the drama, mystery and suspense of Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap. No doubt partially inspired by the story of the New York zoo and its missing reptile which captivated media and social media for months.

The PR moral of this little mouse tale? “People love to be told stories,” writes Obst. As you’ll read, the storytelling was brilliant. It was witty with clever characterization. It was fun and it had that most important ingredient in news – human interest.

It also illustrated several important PR truths. When it comes to publicity, recognize an opportunity, be nimble and quick, tell a great story and don’t forget social media. And when things start to happen, get on that horse, or mouse, and ride like the wind!

And at the end of his column, our humble Herr Obst even asks the million-dollar PR questions. ” But how can we evaluate this return on investment? Does it give the library what they want? Has the library benefited long term from this event?”

In short, yes! But you’ll have to read Herr Obst’s story yourself to fully appreciate this genius of a mouse tale.

If this story caught your interest and inspired you, you may enjoy reading another of my recent posts PR Storytelling: Why’s This So Good? We have a brand new section in our PR Library called Content Marketing as well as PR Writing resources. And you can sign up for weekly blog tips and posts or get the RSS feed delivered to your favorite RSS reader.

Do you have other favorite storytellers you’d like to share? Just tell your story in our comments below.

Author: Jeff Domansky