I recently lectured to a George Washington University PR/communications class alongside a top newspaper editor. He was there to provide feedback on "pitch letters" that the students had sent him.
In explaining why some hit the mark while others didn't, he shared an anecdote. Before entering his managing editor's office to pitch his story ideas, he always made sure he had an answer to one fundamental question, "Why should I care?"
The journalist told the students they should always keep that question in mind before pitching him or any other journalist. I agree. Too many marketing types get distracted by the creativity of a story angle rather than thinking through why a media outlet's readers, viewers or listeners should care.
Advertising agencies are notorious for creating campaigns that win awards, but don't move the sales needle. Many PR pros are the same. I can't tell you how many press releases, bylined articles and case studies I've judged in various awards' competitions that, while creative, fail to explain to me why the customer or prospect would care.
I think the "care" question works equally well for business in general. Far too many organizations drink their own Kool-Aid, speak their own language and launch their own inside-out campaigns without asking the question, "Why should my customers care?"
Organizations exist to serve customer needs and wants. Not to win awards. This may seem obvious. But, too many of us are far too caught up in "owning an idea" or being "creative for the sake of creativity."
The organizations who will survive, if not thrive, in this downturn will be those who answer the "Why should I care" question.