I was having lunch with a senior editor at a major news outlet this week. Between bites of his Caesar salad, I asked him for an update on how things were going in the newsroom. For once, his lament was not about layoffs or budgets or technology changes or even annoying public relations people (just kidding!) His concern was even more familiar: Everyone is so overwhelmed with information, he said, that no one is reading the news.“What’s the solution?” I asked.
"Fewer stories,” he said. “But more impactful ones.”
I nodded in commiseration and complete understanding and left to attend a webinar presented by Cision and PR News on their 2017 Global Comms Challenges and Trends report. They did a survey of 425 senior-level professionals last summer who work in agencies or in-house and found that content -- not earned media -- is the most important activity for their communications program. But even content creators can make the same mistake as news outlets: too many stories that everyone else already has, as well as concepts that run too thin or aren’t really that interesting.
So what’s the answer for PR pros?
The same one that my lunch date offered: really good storytelling. That means you need to say something new, something with a strong point of view, or that is a fresh idea. It also means that your story, like any good book, can only be about one thing, not two things. It’s ok if there are variations on a theme. But those themes need to support a singular concept. At InkHouse, we call this singular concept your revelation.
Of course, nailing that revelation is hard. It’s where the bulk of the effort lies. But once you have it, the rest of the work is easier and revolves around telling that story over and over again, using every channel and platform as possible. (By the way, Facebook remains the top publishing platform for brands, according to the Cision/PR Week survey, though that could change quickly now that Facebook has changed its algorithms to favor local news and content from friends and family.)
This repetitive approach is key because even if you think someone saw, read or heard your story the first time you pushed it out, they probably didn’t. And even if they did, it’s ok. This is why advertising jingles work. They’re a simple, memorable concept that you’ve heard a million times and you don’t mind singing it in the shower.
This process is not only more effective, it’s more efficient for everyone and allows you to be more creative. Two powerful ways to iterate on a story is to use data and visual content, and consider how your audience consumes information, tailoring not just your message to them but also the delivery method.
Rather than churning out so many mediocre stories, or even mediocre media pitches, focus on the really good ones. Doing so will also make it easier to see what angles are driving results -- not just clicks or downloads, but new business leads.