13 April 2016 By Northern Lights
In the last month, three former clients have randomly told me that my catchphrase now underpins everything they do in their job.
So I thought I would share them with you and transform your business.
Just two very small words. So what? Yes, ‘so what’ are the two words you need to use all day, every day.
How do they work?
This is where it all started. From my early days in PR, I always thought that a press release and resulting media coverage should achieve a response – someone should want to buy your product as a result, buy your shares or want to join your company.
When I wrote my first paragraph of a release, I started asking myself, “so what, who cares?” It’s brutal but really works. If you find yourself going, in your head, “yup, this is important because companies are struggling with …xyz… and this helps to solve that problem” then you probably have a story.
If you read the first paragraph and go “so what?” and struggle to reply, it’s back to the drawing board. It makes you push yourself to understand the business problem that you are solving and why your release is relevant.
(As I write and remember back, I think I have to give credit to a dear friend of mine on the FT, Michael Skapinker. He was very patient with me when I was learning my craft and I used to send him an odd press release and say “have I got a story?” And he’d go, “no. What’s the so what of this?” Thanks Mike).
It’s too easy for all of us to write a proposal for what we are going to do, rather than what we are going to achieve for our client. Particularly in PR which can be difficult to focus onto business results.
When I have written a proposal, I imagine I am the chief executive at our client. I switch roles and picture myself with his or her budget pressures, investors questioning results at the end of the year and the focus and activities of the business over that period to transform the business. When she reads our proposal and goes “so what?” will she think, “actually yes, this is just what we need. It’s going to transform how our clients see us, it’s going to increase our understanding of this new market, I think it will push up the quality of the people we are recruiting …” and more.
Case studies can be really difficult. Your client excitedly tells you that they have done this great piece of work for a global brand. “We had 80 people working day and night, the client thinks we are amazing and they have never had anyone challenge and work with them the way we did. Can you do a case study on this?”
Um, great. But where is the so what? What was the problem, what have you solved, what difference can you measure?
It’s not that you don’t rate the work that your client has done, it’s just it won’t work to convince others that they are great, if there isn’t a so what in there (our blog on the financial value of case studies includes how to write a killer case study – with lots of so what!)
Sit in on your own presentation and then ask yourself “so what?” Was it all about what you do or have done – or about how your work achieved some of your client’s business goals? I sat in on a presentation last week. Another supplier was presenting to a client of ours. They talked non-stop about what they do. I could see the client hadn’t got a clue what they were talking about. They hadn’t contextualised their work and made it relevant. The so what was missing.
Have you ever watched the BBC’s Dragon’s Den? Every now and then there are deeply cringey and sad pitches for funding. An inventor has spent the last ten years of his life creating a product and mortgaging his house to get a patent. As a viewer you are waiting for a Dragon to say, what is the point of this product (they always do!), what problem are you solving? Where is the so what of it?
So there you have it. Two small and very brutal words. But transformational. Let us know if you try them and get great results.