THE FOUR MOST IMPORTANT QUESTIONS IN PR

Tech PR Top QuestionsWhen you deliver information about your company, product, or technology, you need to answer four key questions: What, Why, How, and So What. Sounds obvious, right?  In theory, yes, but time and again companies stumble in their attempts to effectively communicate these four variables. Your skill at answering these questions will determine whether or not editors, analysts, investors, or prospective customers are paying attention. Let’s examine these questions, one at a time.

So What?

We put this question first because you have no chance of conveying a message if the recipient isn’t interested. While the answers to the other questions flow naturally out of the news about your product, company, technology or service, the “So What?” question provides the essential context that generates interest. Answering this question is your chance to engage the viewer/listener/reader by appealing directly to their most important interests. In a business-to-business PR practice like ours, those interests include saving money, increasing productivity, improving customer service, and avoiding threats (i.e., network downtime or security breaches). You must appeal directly to your constituent’s biggest problem or most important interest.

What

The “What” is the news event you’re announcing—the core of your message. This answer should be descriptive enough to differentiate, but evocative enough to sell, which means that it should always include the context you developed as an answer to the “So What?” question. For example, while we’re sure the world has been holding its breath waiting to learn that you have released a new offering that enhances the inner workings of mobile bay stations, they’ll be much more likely to appreciate the news if you add some context that explains why they should care. “What,” in this case, doesn’t mean just how your product or technology works or what its specifications are, but also what it does to solve the immediate problem or pique the primary interest of the audience.  All too often, companies fall victim to droning on about functionality without explaining the directly corresponding benefits.

How

The “How” is a further opportunity to differentiate your product, service, or technology from those of your competitors. Many companies take this question as a license to run on and on with technical gobbledygook, but we advise that you should only be as technical as it takes to differentiate your approach from those of the competition. Further, your technical descriptions should validate your “so what” message as much as possible. For example, if your product has a more flexible programming interface, you might mention that this offers investment protection over the long term by allowing people to modify the product as their needs change. Your engineers and CTO will have plenty of chances to delve deeply into the mysteries of radio frequency behavior or whatever if they get those questions during briefings or interviews, but it’s better to leave your audience longing for more information than to risk boring them to tears with techno-speak that’s over their heads. Remember, your real audience (people who might buy your product) care mostly about what it will do for them, not how it accomplishes those things.

Why

This question often causes more consternation among technology companies than it should. Most technology companies are focused on developing their particular technology and its function is—to them—reason enough in itself. Some people think of this question as being the same as “So What,” but we think it can be a bit different, depending on what you’re announcing. If your company has already launched and you’re announcing a new product or new product feature, then the “Why” should explain how this news builds on your company’s experience, prior products and previous market success. Smaller companies can’t afford to appear as though they’re constantly shifting gears by coming out with different products for widely different markets, so you can use “Why” as the glue that binds your news to what you’ve done before and makes it appear as a logical, and hopefully brilliant, extension of your company strategy.

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