The 2 words that will elevate your business storytelling
The news is not just about the facts.
Sure, who, what, where, when, why, and how are all important questions to answer, whether you’re launching a new product, announcing a new partnership, showing off a recent award, or letting the world know you’ll be at an upcoming tech show.
But those announcements are not the story. They are not the news.
Don’t get me wrong: Facts matter. They’re the skeleton of any business story, the structure you build a narrative on.
But to actually create the story, you can’t just list the facts. You have to seek out the bigger picture, fill in context, answer one simple question:
Why business storytelling should always start with “so what?”
The “so what?” test, as it’s come to be called, is an exercise in understanding what matters to your audience. When describing a product, too many companies simply list features – the facts. The best, however, use the “so what?” test to uncover and convey why those features matter to their customers.
The same applies when you’re telling a technology story in the media or on your own blog and social channels. Filmmaker, journalist, and author Nora Ephron learned this lesson in her high school journalism class. She realized the news is not just about the facts, it’s about what the facts mean.
Why are they significant? What’s the point?
How to create a story from the facts
Think for a second about the recent Facebook news feed announcement:
Throughout, Zuckerberg lays out the facts of the change:
“… we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments …”
“… you can expect to see more from posts from your friends, family, and groups.”
“… you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media.”
“… the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down.”
But so what?
Well, that depends on who you ask – the media and brands have plenty of opinions. But the reasons why this matters are written throughout the announcement – how many times does he mention the importance of connecting with each other and meaningful interactions?
The big “so what” moment comes in the first paragraphs and is echoed in the last:
“One of our big focus areas for 2018 is making sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent.
We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. That’s why we’ve always put friends and family at the core of the experience. Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness.”
“At its best, Facebook has always been about personal connections. By focusing on bringing people closer together — whether it’s with family and friends, or around important moments in the world — we can help make sure that Facebook is time well spent.”
That’s why the news feed change matters (at least to Facebook). It’s not just about what you see when you scroll through your news feed. It’s about bringing people closer together and time well spent.
Or consider Elon Musk introducing Tesla’s electric semi truck.
He runs through all the facts: 0-60 speed, how it handles a 5 percent grade, its drag coefficient, and its mileage range on each charge.
But throughout, he compares the Tesla semi to its diesel counterpart – and to a supercar – to show how far ahead it actually is. That context of what’s currently possible and available adds meaning to all the stats.
If you just state the facts and assume readers will understand their significance like you do, you leave open the door for misunderstanding or just plain apathy.
You have to broadcast to readers from your headlines and first sentences why they should care and why the facts they’re absorbing have weight and significance.
The questions that will lead you to your business story
Let’s look at a few scenarios in which “so what?” can help you take your story to a higher plane.
1. You have a new product or service.
- What customer needs does it fulfill?
- How does it compare to similar products or services?
- What are its superlatives – is it the first? Fastest? Best?
- What big picture trends does it connect with?
2. You just entered a new partnership.
- What does the partnership mean for your industry and customers?
- Why was it necessary?
- What does it improve?
3. You won an award.
- Why is the award notable?
- Who else has won in the past?
- What does it mean for your company at this stage of your growth?
4. You’re attending a tech show.
- What new products are you introducing?
- What products will you demo?
- Why should reporters stop by your booth instead of hundreds or thousands of others?
These are the kinds of questions we help clients answer every day. In the end, the facts are the easy part. How to convey those facts in a compelling narrative is always the challenge and is different for every company.
Some stories, after all, are better than others. Some resonate more with your customers. Some resonate more with the media. But a story will always resonate more than facts alone.
Take a look back at your last press release. Think about your next announcement. What’s the meaning behind it? Why does it matter to your audience?
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