20 questions for digging deeper

By Lauren Edwards

When you find yourself stuck on the surface of a topic, try choosing a few questions from this list.

Reasons

  1. What precipitated the changes?
  2. What economic/political/social factors shaped the customers’ problems/company’s actions?
  3. What obstacles lie ahead? What pivotal decisions lie ahead?
  4. What gaps still exist? Define gap with specific dates, data, populations, industries, etc.

Timing

  1. What year/date is the last time this happened? When will something like it happen again?
  2. How does this event compare to similar events in the past? What’s different?
  3. Is a milestone or future event associated with this announcement?
  4. Is this the first/last in a series of “n” phases/products/developments?
  5. Precisely when did shifts occur? Nail down the exact date/month, if possible. Compare that to historical data from one/two/five/10 years ago, as relevant.
  6. Why is this problem more important now than it was last year? Why will it become more so?
  7. How can I quantify the shift? Percentage change? Twofold/10-fold, etc.? Dollar amounts?

Industry/customer

  1. What population/industry/market niche is affected by the change? Can I quantify that?
  2. Can I list the problems or market dynamics faced by the industry that my company is targeting for sales/influence? Can I quantify those problems or offer anecdotes with universal angles?
  3. How does this alter relative rankings in this market? What are the distinguishing characteristics between winners, losers and stay-the-samers?
  4. What universal emotions/worries/fears characterize the customers’/industries’ pain points?
  5. What geographical region is involved? Are its demographics relevant to the problem or news? (Population, density of people or type of company, job title, R&D spending, etc.) What is immediately near this region (nearest big city, nearness to major port or other transportation hub, proximity to supply centers, new/adjacent markets overseas, etc.)

Lessons learned/problems solved

  1. What lessons can others learn from our company’s experience? (Think beyond the product or service – for instance, change management, training methods, interaction among managers, etc.) Describe the businesses/customers/consumers/industries/technologies/geographies involved (rather than simply name them). List characteristics they may have in common with others.
  2. Why couldn’t this problem be solved before? (Immature tech, weak demand, piecemeal approach, scarce raw materials, etc.)

Analogies

  1. How is this problem/solution similar to historical success stories? Fill in a bit of that history.
  2. Any other analogous situations? (Are circumstances/offerings comparable to familiar and well-understood technologies or industries not related to this tech/industry/country/region?)

Top-Two Context Questions: Why should the reader care? Why should the reader care now?

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Lauren Edwards is a former reporter for the Associated Press. She has been creating, customizing and delivering workshops for technology PR teams since 2000.  She also coaches engineers to reach wider audiences while staying true to their convictions. Current clients include NASA Ames, AppDynamics, New Relic, Upwork, Roku, Intel, and Highwire PR.

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