David Simon, journalist turned showrunner (The Wire, Treme, etc.) remarked that any hack could report who, what, where, and when, it was reporting why that was epic.
Whether we’re profiling prospective clients or gathering market research to help explain what’s going on – the basic w’s are table stakes, it’s how we explain why that determines the stickiness of our story. Why is how we stand out. Why is what we point at to explain our value.
To this point, Simon has one other piece of advice, shared in Brett Martin’s book Difficult Men: “have a take, try not to suck.” If we are going to make an attempt at ascribing meaning, we have to make it a good one. It requires us to take some risk. We can’t hide behind the data or shrink from the opportunity to have an opinion. We have to be willing to stake why something matters. It’s not an excuse to be brash, but it is a calling to be brave.
As we look at the jobs we do for our clients, we should consider how the who, what, where, when and why of storytelling combine with the content, context, and connection that links our services to our value. It’s just another data point until we fit it into a story. Have a take, try not to suck.