When I started my career as a reporter in the federal IT industry, I often struggled to find an angle that would bring a story alive. Technology, in and of itself, was not always that interesting, at least not beyond a small circle of tech enthusiasts. But then I had an epiphany.
Every technology exists to solve a problem. Show that you understand that problem, and you will grab the reader’s attention.
The Authenticity Test
The same principle holds true for all content, whether for PR or marketing, as well as for events. Whether looking at an ad, whitepaper or webinar—whatever the content and whatever the format—people immediately weigh its authenticity. How well does the company or speaker seem to understand my problem, and how does the product or service address that? Of course, most people are not that reflective. Rather, they make a snap judgment, based on an intuitive sense of connection or disconnect. It’s the same way we all choose which articles to read online or which ads to watch on TV. We don’t read an article because it’s interesting in some abstract way. We read it because it’s speaks to us, because it’s relevant to some interest or concern we have.
What’s the Story?
As I learned when I was a cub reporter, it all comes down to storytelling. When crafting a message, we need to tell a story in which readers or listeners or audience members can see themselves.
And it all begins with speaking to the problem—whatever problem it is that a product or service is addressing—and the impact of that problem. If we convey that we understand their problem, they are more likely to stick around and here about the solution offered. They will want to hear the rest of the story.
Four Key Questions
I often find that when developing a messaging strategy, it helps to begin by answering four basic questions:
What is the problem being addressed?
What is the impact of the problem?
What is the solution?
What is the impact of that solution?
I first developed that list of questions as a reporter, and as an editor taught it to other reporters, to help them bring their own stories to life. But they are not specific to journalism. They apply to all storytelling.
Answer those questions, and you will have a sense of the story that needs to be told—the means by which to craft a message that your audience finds both relevant and compelling.