Have you heard of the ‘So What’ test? It’s a great way to determine whether your news is interesting to your target audience. It’s also the first question journalists ask when reading your press releases. If you want earned media for your news, it’s essential to put your news to the ‘So What’ test.
Why is this important? Far too many brands confuse their company news with a newsworthy story. (Hear more about the difference between news and newsworthy on Episode 25 of the Brand Newsroom podcast.) It’s typical for company news to:
- Focus on a specific product or service
- Contain a lot of industry jargon
- List features
- Be written in first person
By contrast, a newsworthy story appeals to a wider audience. It doesn’t bash the reader over the head with your perspective on what your company has accomplished. It uses storytelling techniques and draws the reader in. A newsworthy story:
- Tells a story
- Focuses on benefits to the reader
- Is written in plain English
- Is usually written in second person
How does the So What test work? A brand journalist or anyone working in traditional media asks “So what?” to every part of your story. You can do the same by adopting the buyer persona you’re targeting and answer on their behalf.
Example of the So What test
Imagine your company is announcing a new product. Why is that important to your reader? What does it mean for them?
You: We have a new product designed to improve efficiency.
Buyer: So what?
You: We’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in research and development.
Buyer: So what?
You: It’s developed with cutting-edge technology.
Buyer: So what?
You: No one else in Australia has done this.
Buyer: So what?
You: Well that’s our story.
Buyer: [No answer. They’re already gone.]
If it’s a journalist you’re pitching to, they’ll be very frank at this point. If you get a response at all, it will be something like:
You’re right. It is your story. But I don’t care about your story. I care about my readers. How do you fit into their story?
Telling a newsworthy story
See how this works? If you failed the So What test, flip the perspective of your story to focus on the person you’re trying to influence. You need to meet them at the place they’re struggling or the place they’re feeling pain. You can do that by asking questions – a lot of them. You’ll find “So what” is quickly replaced with ‘Tell me more”.
Here’s an example of the same news told in a newsworthy manner.
You: You know that problem where you get to the end of the week and you still have a load of back orders you haven’t processed?
Buyer: Only too well.
You: What if you had a way to reduce your backlog?
Buyer: What do you mean?
You: What if all your orders were processed by Thursday afternoon?
Buyer: That would be bliss.
You: What would you do with that extra day?
Buyer: Easy, my staff would spend more time working with customers.
You: So if you had an extra 20% of your week freed up, you could improve customer service?
Buyer: Yes, I would love that.
You: Would it make a difference to the bottom line of your business?
Buyer: Absolutely. We measure customer satisfaction every month and we know it has a knock-on effect to new sales.
You: What if there was a new product that reduces the time it takes you to fill orders by at least 20%? Would you be interested in something like that?
Buyer: Yes. Tell me more.
Well here’s the real story.
Last year we began to recognise a pattern in how small business handled their ordering process. Nearly all of them suffered backlogs, even if it was just seasonal. Most of the people we met couldn’t afford to add more staff to help them fill orders, especially during seasonal highs. But this also meant they were losing business. It was a chicken and egg situation –they couldn’t afford to hire more people because they weren’t getting enough orders. They couldn’t take on more orders because they were already behind processing their current workload.
We knew we could fix it, so we invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in technology that plugs into any ordering system, even Excel spreadsheets. Small businesses participating in the beta test realized between 20% and 35% improvement in the speed of filling orders. This gave them more time to dedicate to customer care programs or to focus on business development. The average return on investment is estimated to be four months long. And guess what?No one else in Australia is offering this.
You get to make all the same points as your company-centric news, but now it’s much more palatable to your prospective customers and to the media. Your chances of gaining earned media for your new product have greatly improved.
By telling your story from a customer’s perspective, you’ve also increased your chance of reaching your target audience and having them hang around to hear your news. And it’s not unusual for your prospective customers to share information about how they operate. You’ve started a dialogue with them through your content and they’re much more likely to respond.
Want more information?
If you want help on telling better stories for your company or how to flip the perspective in your writing, give us a call. We can help you craft newsworthy stories and we can also give you assistance in writing your own stories.