Having practiced PR for more than two decades it might surprise you to hear me say that the principles of public relations haven’t changed much over the years. Sure, there are more audiences to consider on social media and people are accessing information on a multitude of devices. Pundits say that PR must engage with the community and that content is king.
Yet, for true PR professionals, this has always been the case. Discovering what is truly unique, fascinating or unusual is the skill that PR people bring to the table. It’s the art of storytelling. And it hasn’t changed.
So how do you find a good story to tell?
I’ll start by saying what doesn’t make a good story.
- A new software product that the product manager says is “cool”
- Anything that happened more than two days ago
- Shameless self-promotion of your company or product or yourself
- A big sales deal that is all about the numbers.
Finding a great story is all about understanding your audiences – both customers and journalists. In a recent article Darryl Konynenbelt said it’s answering the question – “So what?” And to that I’d add “Who cares?”
How does your story impact someone or something? How is your pitch relevant to solving a problem? Are there new facts or a great visual that can add life to your pitch?
Finding a great story takes time. PR pros need to ask a lot of questions, research market trends, be up on the latest news, as well as social and cultural topics. Here’s some ideas for great stories:
- Is your product a first? AND, can you prove it? If you can absolutely, positively prove it’s a first – go for it.
- Will your product or service make life easier for a large part of the population? Again, can you prove it?
- Is your pitch something people are already talking about such as the presidential election, global warming or Adele?
- What’s the back story? Does the the CEO of your startup company build treehouses as a hobby?
Now, how do you go about finding these story nuggets? First, sit down with your colleagues and talk about what makes a great story. Get their ideas flowing and get them to be your eyes and ears in the field. Encourage them as they suggest ideas and realize that it may take some time before they come up with a winner.
It’s all in the story – in finding the right hook that will get the eyes or ears of your audience. And certainly, once you find a great story be sure it’s told to multiple audiences, with targeted messaging, and disseminated as widely as possible in all areas of your marketing.
Ann Taylor is a Sr. PR Strategist with Accolades PR. She is a former journalist and has more than 25 years experience in public relations, communications and marketing.