When I first moved into public relations from marketing, one of my biggest challenges (opportunities) was thinking like a journalist.
This notion resonated everywhere I turned—from PR blogs and the Twittersphere, to media and colleagues. Having no experience as a reporter, nor a journalism degree, I was being asked to identify what made my clients compelling (people, products, services, technology), write the story in journalistic style—without hype—and then pitch with all my might in hopes of securing coverage. I had to quickly perfect my storytelling skills and be able to continually identify the news over the snooze.
Back in one of my first jobs, in auditing, I did my share of “investigative” work, but the resulting papers weren’t exactly stories. Although some of my findings may have been compelling, I never had to sell the information to anyone for promotional purposes. I just documented with my No. 2 red pencil and moved along to another financial statement.
Then, having spent nearly a decade in a traditional marketing environment, my brain was accustomed to jumping on the latest product development, bonus feature, or upgrade as if it were breaking news. Although I was used to selling the “value,” I was also accustomed to selling the features of my clients’ products and brands. Another brand attribute meant more bullet points on a sell sheet, ammunition for sales reps, and potential enhancement to an existing marketing campaign.
Journalists (and readers) don’t care much for bullet points that don’t relay the benefits of a product or service and demonstrate that something has occurred or changed.
As we craft our writing, we must continually be asking ourselves:
• What does the product or service do that people would care about?
• Does it solve a common or important problem?
• Does it improve health, appearance, or love life, or save time and money?
• Does it help one’s career, a business, or an investment? Is it informative, poignant, humorous, sexy, provocative, or inspiring?
Of course, these all take us back to that crucial question, “So what?”
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Facts are essential—we can’t overhype or oversell the story—but unless we’re dealing with breaking news, facts are not always enough. What’s the story? Is that story compelling to anyone other than the client, or is it a big snooze?
Working hard to tell a good story will be much more likely to generate coverage. The snooze-worthy, superficial approach will probably go directly into the reporter’s trash folder.
Anna Crowe is an account supervisor at Gable PR.