Wall Street Journal

Most forgotten yet always essential when developing pitch ideas in a vacuum

By Lauren Edwards

The other day, a PR team asked me to help them develop a big batch of new pitch angles for a particular client. They had a great starting point with a lot of really interesting info about the company and chief executive.

I’ll share with you a general part of my reaction. In this case, I was most keenly aware that the prospective audience was missing from their pile of otherwise great info.

This probably happens a lot. We get caught up in promoting our company/client’s ideas, without remembering to balance that with the audience’s own interests. It’s easy to forget the audience because they aren’t in the room with us or paying the bills. So it takes an extra effort to restore them to our mental picture.

Think of it this way: Journalists are stand-ins or proxies for readers.

Journalists are usually asking themselves, “What’s in it for the reader?” No matter the topic, they are stretching their vantage point to put themselves in the readers’ shoes and look for direct connections to readers’ lives.

So this is always a good practice for PR teams, too.

One of my workshops, Creating Compelling Content, includes a section that’s all about deep-diving into the audience’s PDAs (Problems, Decisions and Actions — NOT public displays of affection, LOL). The workshop also gives advice on how to objectively recognize the most riveting 2 percent of any information set, from the readers’s vantage point, that is. Anyway, this is all to say it’s not easy to think about the audience unless you are very intentional and committed to the task.

It seems simple. And you’ve heard it before. But the need to be reminded never seems to go out of style.

To get into readers’ lives, you usually have to start with the publication. Then you have to look at the particular journalist. Then you have to read a dozen or so of that journalist’s headlines. At that point, you’ll notice patterns and get a better sense of what they are wanting to do for their readers. But the question to ask then is: What’s in it for the reader?

If you can shift your mind to this place — away from the client, toward the reader — you’ll be closer to the journalist’s mindset.

Sure, there’s a ton of other stuff to think about, too. But the audience’s own interests is a must-have — and amazingly easy to leave out.


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