Storytelling tip: What do you say when you run out of things to say?
By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
If you do a lot of public communication — writing or speaking — you’ve probably faced this problem, as I have, many times: Your next deadline is here. And you can’t think of anything to say.
When I was a journalist responsible for regularly coming up with new stories to justify my paychecks, I sometimes dreamed that all the stories ever to be told had been told. There weren’t any more. And wouldn’t be. Ever. And I didn’t know what to do about it.
Maybe you haven’t dreamed about it the way I did. But chances are you’ve found yourself with that dilemma: It’s time to say something. But you’ve run out of things to say. Now what? Here are a few suggestions from someone who has faced that abyss more times than I care to remember:
- Repeat yourself. Go back into the archives of what you’ve already said and recycle some of your old material. Most of the time your audience won’t care — or even know — that you’re doing it. Just because you said something doesn’t mean the rest of us heard you. Or that we remember it even if we did. Repetition is the key to delivering your message effectively. People who study such things say your audience hasn’t really heard your message until you’ve repeated it multiple times. If you’re writing a blog or something else where there’s a public archive of what you’ve said you may want to make some changes in the new version. But if it was worth saying once, it’s probably worth saying again.
- Look to news headlines for ideas. Stories that are in the news often lend themselves to sidebar stories that add a new angle. Do you have a new angle to a story making news? If so, use stories already making headlines to tell a story that adds the context of what you have to say.
- Keep a story-idea journal. Some writers keep a notebook with them so they can jot down ideas as they come up with them. If you frequently find yourself struggling to come up with something to write about when you’re on deadline, writing down story ideas as they pop into your head when you’re not on deadline can be useful. Good reporters are always looking for story ideas. Follow their example. Be open to finding ideas for how to tell your story wherever and whenever you come across them. And write them down when they pop into your head.
- Put off writing until another time. I’m a big fan of using newsletters and blogs to communicate with your audience. And I often tell clients to wait until they have something worth saying before sending out their next newsletter. Unless you have no choice, don’t send me something just because your (often self-imposed) deadline is here. Send me something when you have something to say that I’ll be interested in.
We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?
Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.