By Alannah McDermott, Intern
Imagine yourself sitting at a table, staring down at a pile of puzzle pieces. With determination and a hint of intimidation, you push aside the pile and place one small piece in front of you. This is where you’ll begin. As you reach for another piece, you notice it’s very similar to the one you just picked up. Scanning your eyes over the entire pile, you become acutely aware that almost every piece is shaped and colored just like the first.
You begin to wonder if this puzzle will look anything like you envisioned it to be.
I’m glad puzzle pieces come in different shapes and sizes, and we’re not faced with the daunting task of creating a work of art without the resources needed.
However, this is a challenge we sometimes face in the fields of media and communications. And yes, although I know humans are more complex than tiny cardboard cutouts, this picture illustrates why diversity is vital to the heartbeat of a story — any story..
“You’re not telling the full story if you’re only showing a sliver of the population,” according to Kara Wetzel, Bloomberg’s San Francisco bureau chief.
Kara sat down with San Jose State University PR Professor Shaun Fletcher at HP recently to discuss how the publication uniquely covers tech and business. However, when you assemble communicators and writers in a room for an hour, the conversation is bound to bloom into the intricacies of storytelling.
Kara blended detailed practicality with a bigger picture painting of communications as she answered Fletcher’s questions. Here are three takeaways Kara shared as she gave a peek behind the doors of Bloomberg and into some great trends in storytelling.
Diversity in perspectives: the key to a multi-faceted narrative
As Kara so brilliantly mentioned, it’s impossible to tell stories when our ears are tuned to only one perspective. A mixture of diverse backgrounds, genders, experiences and ethnicities are needed to craft stories that will empathize and relate to a richer pool of people.
Bloomberg isn’t just window dressing when it comes to inclusion — they actively push to increase diversity in the sources and expert spokespeople cited in their stories. The publication even keeps a database of diverse spokespeople, which is both a respectable effort and an exciting opportunity for PR folks to get an exceptionally unique client on the list.
Kara further proved Bloomberg to be an incubator of diversity by sharing some other initiatives, such as providing minority students with financial journalism lessons and developing young women reporters. The latter effort, called New Voices, focuses on increasing the representation of female sources in online and on-air content as well as providing media training for top women executives. This effort aims to combat the “drop off” trend that is sometimes seen after their sixth or seventh year in the industry.
The craving for bite-sized stories
It’s Twitter’s world, and we’re just living in it.
OK, that might not be entirely true, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that the world’s attention spans are growing shorter by the day. Readers crave short stories, and Bloomberg’s reporters are publishing short, stand-alone updates instead of continually updating or tweaking a long story.
To accommodate for the constantly changing way readers consume news, it is sometimes best to break up your story into smaller, bite-sized stories, like a trail of breadcrumbs eventually leading the reader back to the main meal.
Tell the story … with empathy
Empathy was a common theme throughout the conversation, although it wasn’t mentioned explicitly. This is a game-changer when it comes to creating compelling content for your audience. One way PR professionals can show this is by answering questions before they have a chance to form inside the readers’ minds. By being empathetic, you are stepping into the lives of your audience. You’re seeing their pain points, feeling their struggles and understanding their ultimate goals.
Kara shared that she constantly asks herself, “How does this pertain to a reader concerned about money and finance?” before she even picks up a story idea. The Hoffman Agency frequently jumps at the opportunity to peek inside a reporter’s mind. We’ve attended PRSA events featuring The New York Times and Business Insider reporters, happily jotting down their streams of thought and perspectives..
Attention spans are fleeting and feeble, which means reporters are now more deliberate and thoughtful in picking their stories. It’s a good idea to make sure every question that could pop up in their heads is already answered by your content. If your story doesn’t address one of those pain points or answer their questions, they’ll move onto something else that does.
Although the evening’s conversation was riddled with functional information, I continuously found myself intrigued by the more abstract nuances and effects of storytelling. Beneath the day-to-day operations at Bloomberg is a desire to make an impact.
In Bloomberg’s case, the primary goal would be to equip decision makers with the best information and ideas so they can leave a profound impact on markets and businesses. Bloomberg’s influence reaches beyond that, however, by setting the stage for greater diversity and empathy in the stories we pitch to journalists and share with the world.