3 reporter tricks to steal for your strategy

Published April 15, 2021, 8:15 a.m. by Helena Kämpfe Fredén

“20 years ago, I learned the three questions that all journalistic craft is based on. I have used them ever since,” says Helena Kämpfe Fredén, Client director and strategist at Spoon.

"There are three questions you need to ask yourself when you work as a journalist." The teacher at the journalism school puts on a recorded news story from the local radio. The crowd of soon-to-be-bona-fide journalists listens carefully. "And don’t forget regular Joe, he is the one you are going to tell," he adds.

It is a typical small-town feature: a resigned and disappointed football captain interviewed about a lost match. The reporter asked three simple questions. Three questions that would become the most important assets in our toolbox.

1. What is going on here?
2. Why?
3. What will happen next?

That was 20 years ago. Time goes by but some things remain – for me it is becoming increasingly clear that we, who work to create change through communication, should ask these questions a bit more often. Whether we are creating a new influencer concept for TikTok or an overall communication strategy for an entire business group.

Ask yourself to strategic insights

These seemingly simple questions turn the spotlight on what all strategies should consist of, but often don’t. Even though you haven’t asked these questions, you can still deliver strategies, platforms and concepts. But when you poke at them, they’ll ring hollow.

The answer to “What is going on here?” includes everything from mapping markets, competitors and external trends. Most important of all is to understand the people we want to reach with communication. What's going on in their heads?

On to the second question – “Why?”. Why is everyone buying from the competitor instead of us? Why do people behave as they do? To understand why you need to ask the question – as a reporter would do. Few, if any, surveys can replace a really good interview technique. Editorial methods and a journalist’s toolset let us dig deeper and understand the problem behind the problem.

Your strategy should result in activities

And “what will happen next?” For the football captain, it is about game tactics. For the communicator, it is the roadmap that a good strategy should result in – hands-on tactics to achieve business goals. Because no matter how wise a strategy is, it is not worth it’s salt if it doesn’t result in activities.

What about regular Joe, then? Joes is a sloppy alter-ego for the reader or listener, that is, the recipient of the communication. To stubbornly put Joe, or the target group, in the center is the journalistic principle in a nutshell. Even here, the strategist has a lot to gain from being on Joe's side – to always have one’s ear to the ground and think about the target group's wishes, dreams and conditions. But how? You can start by asking the right questions.

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