Look at the construction of any major feature story in Fortune, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Atlantic, Wired, take your pick.
What element is likely to underscore the narrative?
Here’s a hint. It starts with an “F.”
Failure (if you guessed frickinmess, you were in the ballpark).
Something going terribly wrong — the bigger the “train wreck,” the better. Forcing a company to experience pain in resolving the debacle makes for a good read. Patricia Sellers, a journalist at Fortune, articulated the appeal of this formula in an interview with the Stanford Business School. If you skip to 1:31 in the video, you’ll hear her frame the components of a compelling narrative.
Her closing comment (2:01), “If failure isn’t part of the story, I’m not that interested,” puts the kibosh on most PR pitches. It’s been a long time since I sat down with a client CEO to discuss last quarter’s failures as potential fodder for PR.
But contrast offers an effective option for PR storytelling.
If you think about it, the failure story at its core is one of contrast, failure vs. success. PR can apply the same technique in its communications. While contrast won’t deliver the drama of the failure vs. success story, it absolutely lifts the narrative.
The advertising folks get this.