by helen on July 20, 2011

How to find stories to keep the people that matter tuned in

Everyone loves a story. Have you heard the one about… and isn’t it always more interesting if you know one or more of the characters (either personally or by their reputation/fame)?

So when thinking about how to get people interested in your business, you need to think about stories about people. People who work there, people who are customers, people who are suppliers, people who are competitors.

Don’t think about your products or services as standalones. Think about how they affect people. Then you will start thinking like a journalist, whose first question whenever they hear about a story is “why will my readers/viewers/listeners care about this?”.

What’s it got to do with me?

At the end of the day no-one is really that bothered about a product or service – however innovative, cheap or unique it is. What they are bothered about is what effect it will have on their life.

If you think you have a story that the local paper should print on its front page (and believe me there are plenty of mds out there who think their new office/widget/service should be the lead story) just have a think about why the general public should give a monkeys.

Because if they don’t, no journalist will include it in the NIBs (news in brief column) let alone on the front page.

Now it may be harder for you to come up with stories if you apply this method of sourcing news – but I pretty much guarantee that you will be more popular with the people that matter to your business if you do.

What’s it got to do with them?

You also need to consider your target audience (remember them?). Would you tell the same story to a group of investors as you would to a room full of employees? Or indeed a room full of customers if your business is making and selling toys?

No. You’d use a different story, a different tone of voice, and probably a different communication channel. Wouldn’t you?

So think about your audience. Think about the ways you have identified to reach your audience. And now think about the sorts of stories that will turn them on.

Some ideas…

If you have a new product or service – don’t just announce it. Think about why you have developed it. Is it in response to customer demand? Why did they want it? Did you spot a gap in the market? Use your R&D process to find a reason that this product/service will matter to your customers – I know someone who started dance classes for toddlers because she couldn’t find sessions she liked for her own children. Her story is much more interesting than just “new dance class for toddlers launched inLeeds”. Isn’t it?

Do you operate in an industry where there is a lot of controversy, seasonal activity, upward and downward trends? Here’s where you can put your status as an expert to good use – offer comment and opinion to journalists you notice writing about your topics and help them get readers/listeners/viewers involved in a debate or campaign.

Here’s an example of how one company saw an opportunity to generate a national debate around conference calling vs business travel. It’s a great example of a campaign that puts people’s interests before the brand – but with fantastic results for brand awareness. Case study “Flypowwownow”.

For more ideas – 15 in fact – read this post on PR in your pajamas: practical publicity for entrepreneurs by Elena Verlee.

I know I have concentrated a lot on the sort of stories that the media like – and some of you may be thinking, hang on, we don’t need the media to publish our stories any more – we can do it ourselves! Well that’s true. But after hundreds of years of knowing what people like to read about I think we can all learn a lesson or two about how to develop interesting content from journalists. After all, the audience hasn’t changed – just the way we can reach them. ;)

No excuses now, time to put your thinking caps on and come up with some attention-grabbing stories of your own.

Photo courtesy krazydad / jbum, Creative Commons. There’s an interactive version here – it’s quite addictive too!

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