Problem-solution storytelling

Aesop-fox-and-the-stork-270x300Every PR firm has its own unique approach to generating feature articles on a client's behalf. Our strategy, which is brilliantly illustrated in this Korn/Ferry Talent Wars story is simple:
– Quantify, or qualify, a problem keeping a target audience up at night and…
– Position your client as providing the unique solution to easing the pain.

So, in the Korn/Ferry case, the search firm confirmed what most of us already know: global organizations are in desperate need of executives with international experience. Yet, and here's the pain point, 35 percent of K/F survey respondents say they don't have a plan in place to produce those sorts of leaders! How lame is that?

Not to worry, though, because Korn/Ferry is positioned as THE solution to the global leadership challenge.

It's simple, yet elegant. And, I guarantee it will produce lots of buzz.

We try to take the problem/solution formula a step further. We'll do exactly what Korn/Ferry did but then, and this is critical, we'll tell the story through an audience member's eyes.

So, were I advising Korn/Ferry, I'd follow-up the press release with a feature pitch something along these lines:

John Smith hasn't been sleeping very well the past few months. That's because he says his number one competitor is outflanking him on the college campus recruiting front. “They're attracting the best and brightest because they were smart enough to implement a global training program for fast trackers a few years ago. Now, I'm scrambling to play catch-up,” said the SVP of human resources for LongTrak, a global manufacturer of railroad ties. Smith is just one of many human resources executives who, according to a new Korn/Ferry survey, simply don't have a plan in place to provide global experiences for next generation managers.

Pretty compelling, no? And, that's the beauty of a strategic thought leadership campaign and problem/solution storytelling. Done well, it can immediately establish your client as the de facto subject matter expert in the eyes of the media.

Smart, credible storytelling is yet another reason why PR is much more effective than advertising in connecting with an audience that is time-pressed, overloaded with information and more confused than the Republican Party.

The typical advertising approach to telling the exact same story would go something like this:

Setting: a typical American workplace. A paid actor portrays a harried, tired executive. The commercial begins with the manager rubbing his eyes…

"My wife tossed me out of bed three months ago. I thought it was my nervous leg twitching. Turns out I was muttering 'Global. Global. Global' all night long. When Gloria finally told me why I was on the couch, I knew just what to do. I e-mailed the fine folks at Korn/Ferry and asked them to create a global training program for my fast trackers. And, they did just that. So, why am I still rubbing my eyes? Turns out the leg twitching was the other reason I was tossed out. Hey, Korn/Ferry, do you guys have any meds that'll keep my legs still?"

Actor turns away from the camera to begin interviewing a bright, young college grad.

Message at bottom reads: 'Korn/Ferry: 'Your passport to a global leadership program.'

Totally bogus, right?

That's why I guarantee Korn/Ferry is spending its marketing dollars in PR and not advertising.

Smart organizations such as K/F know that taking a problem/solution approach to storytelling is the single best way to break through the clutter.

Do you agree? If so, can you share any world class problem/solution examples with the rest of us? I'm even open to learning about unique solutions to John Smith's leg twitching (that “…won't cause serious side effects which, in rare instances, could include death.”).

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