Saturday, March 03, 2007

What's a Good Story?

I realize we talk a lot in this this blog about "the message" and "communications architecture." But since we are actually a public relations and strategic communications firm, we think a lot about what makes a good story. Because, at the end of the day, all the good strategy in the world makes little difference if you can't get people to listen.

While there are no hard and fast rules and regulations about what makes a good story, there are a couple of things that are usually pretty high on the list. In particular:

  • Drama/tension
  • Controversy
There are a lot of ways to accomplish these; but we at Roeder-Johnson generally like to try to accomplish them by trying to be provocative, and challenging conventional wisdom. This can manifest in a number of ways. It could mean:
  • Challenging what people commonly believe about a topic; or
  • Challenging what a high profile person or company thinks about a topic; or
  • Turning a market on its ear through economics, technology, or business model; or
  • Shocking people on a personal level (although we don't use this tactic ourselves);
  • etc.
The art here, for a firm like ours, is to find that provocative angle in a company or venture firm's story. And then, using that angle while still positioning the company or firm. And finally, in getting the executive team comfortable with the idea of talking about that alternative view of the world. This is not an impossible combination, but it requires some thought and patience. Moreover, it often takes executives with "intestinal fortitude". That is, it is often more comfortable to do things the way others have done it than to beat your own path. Most of the time, that iconoclastic view of the world will take time and energy to get people to listen (though not always).

But, in the long term, finding the good story pays off.