Monday, October 03, 2005

No Story 

A number of things lately spurred me to think about clients whose stories are difficult to tell. I have had plenty of these over the years -- clients and stories. They never get easier. It made no difference whether a story was important. Reporters were not interested.

The most maddening experience to date was trying to get business reporters interested in accounting issues. Accounting is the language of business and on definitions of assets, liabilities and equity turn trillions of dollars. Business reporters, however, would have none of it. They didn't know accounting. They didn't want to know accounting. They had no interest in learning about accounting topics. Yet, they reported daily on business stories at whose roots were accounting issues. It was -- and still is -- the height of irresponsibility, but that made no difference. It was an impossible task to make accounting palatable to nonaccountants. I have been through numerous stories like this. Some like accounting are baffling because the issues are so important one cannot imagine a member of the media not being interested.

When companies suffer with the "no story" syndrome, there are several avenues to take. One is to give up, if a company is doing well, and publicity will not make much difference to the bottomline. Another is to keep searching until one finds a key of some sort to unlock indifference. That key may not be a direct attack, but something tangential that captures interest. A third is to keep hammering until someday someone wakes up. The last is the bleakest situation and not preferable, but sometimes, it is all that works.

In my experience, when one has "no story," there can never be enough facts to collect and prepare. That is, one has to do everything one can to deliver testimonials, demonstrations, whatever to get people to pay attention. Scanting any element keeps the media away.

PR practitioners in agencies earn their keep on tough stories. Anybody can represent a celebrity and turn away interviews. I have had only one account where I was a "traffic cop" shuttling media from here to there, and I didn't have to worry about generating interviews. It was too easy. I felt guilty representing the client.


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