Given the events of the last few years, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that PR has become a citadel for many organisations. This is especially true in these risky times when even an extra sigh by an organisation’s leader can be and most likely will be analysed for days. With this massive PR wave, professionals in the industry are under the spotlight where we are aiming to juggle multiple plates and each one of them is made from an expensive and highly fragile material!
As we do this, some of us may sometimes find ourselves heavily engrossed in our client’s messaging - to a point of no detachment. And rightfully so! As the custodians of any organisation’s corporate character, we are required to believe in the companies that we service. However, an unlimited belief in a pitch or messaging without valuable proof points could deter us from making the right judgement and understanding the pulse of the market.
But then the question is ‘how do we ensure neutrality and subjectivity while developing any pitch/idea/campaign?’. The answer lies in another question which is ‘so what?’. This question coupled with a few others can be the anchor for any PR professional coming up with a strategy for their clients.
To simplify, it is the practice of detaching oneself from any pitch or idea to bring in neutrality. One can essentially do this by taking a few steps back, viewing it from the perspective of a potential stakeholder and asking, ‘ummm, so what?’.
You may also need to add a few other questions in the mix to develop an undeniably appealing pitch. Each time, I have thought that I have come up with an earth-shattering campaign idea or have a disruptive announcement, I have tried to run it under the ‘so what?’ scanner simply by asking myself a series of questions.
To make this approach simpler, say for instance one of your clients is completing a few years in India or there is a new factory inauguration. Now it may seem like an interesting announcement, but before you go on to share some ideas ask yourself ‘so what?’ from the perspective of the audience along with a few other questions like:
‘Yes, it is a great announcement for the business but so what?’
‘Is it really interesting for the ultimate target audience?’
‘How do I make it standout in the clutter around similar messaging?’
‘How do I make it absolutely relevant to the current times?’
‘Can I expand the real theme behind it to make it more overarching? Or should I condense the theme to make it more targeted?
‘How do I align it with the current messaging that we are going for?’
These questions certainly need to be customized given the type of idea or pitch you may have. This dispassionate initial view will allow us to stand on a neutral ground and develop something that we later can truly stand behind. As the famous quote goes, “It is hard to see things when you are too close, take a step back and look.” This approach is likely to catalyse our move forward without blinders disrupting our peripheral vision.
Ultimately, as PR professionals, we would much rather ask this question of ‘so what’ to ourselves than have the target audience ask it. Not just that, it will also give you the confidence in your answer if someone else does happen to ask ‘so what’ to any of your ideas. We must also remember that the stories we pitch may not essentially always be topical, but this practice sure helps us identify and further elaborate on any sort of ‘appeal’ that can be pitched through it.
The thought behind this is not to dismiss the initial belief but to simply take a step back from the theme you developed and look at it from the lens of the readers or the media. This process is also not about creating self-doubt or second-guessing anything we do as professionals, instead it is just to add a layer of neutrality which we may sometimes miss given the human nature to become attached with the ideas we develop. As the world of PR grows, we will be expected to create unique messaging that helps our clients distinguish themselves from competitors or otherwise. In such situations, a ‘so-what’ proof idea is what is going to take us ahead.
Ultimately, while we are required to innovate and bring in newer practices, it is also important to polish some of the existing methods to ensure consistent success. All we want as professionals is to let our ideas be springboards for our client’s overall success and for that we must bring in some tough love in the form of neutrality.