Three reasons why PR should start with a problem, not a headline

PR has evolved hugely over the years, for the better in my opinion, but old habits die hard and when consumers have an incredibly short attention span (I include myself here), there's no time for fluff.

Are you looking at your PR problem the wrong way round? asks Catherine Warrilow
Are you looking at your PR problem the wrong way round? asks Catherine Warrilow

The discipline of PR is centered around search, social and good old word-of-mouth. Let’s look at each one quickly.

When you search for something online, you’re looking for the answer to a problem:

• Where can I take the kids today?

• How do I treat earache in a 5-year-old?

When you’re on your social pages, you happen across the answer to problems that you share with your friends and see content like:

• So glad I got the kids shoes from shop X and not shop Y, the quality is so much better.

• Ate at restaurant Z last night, perfect for a date night.

Again, answers to problems. And as the use of voice search increases, starting with the problem becomes increasingly important, as it’s human nature to ask for help fixing something.

Finally, word of mouth, which plays out something like this:

Me: "I have no idea how to get little Jimmy to eat his vegetables"

You: "We had the same problem with little Jacky, have you tried this amazing gadget…"

I’m stating the obvious here, but we don’t always take this into account when creating content – we’re distracted by the killer headline or summing up the USPs – so start with the problem and think about the associated SEO benefits of doing so too.

Whether you’re trying to get coverage online, writing a blog post or planning a social campaign, does your call to action or headline solve a problem?

Three tips for starting with a problem and not a headline:

1. Do your research

Google simple words associated with your topic and see what people are searching for in that context – Google will give you the top-five associated search terms. If you have an Adwords account you can also use this to do some keyword research. Other tools like Ask the Public are great and give a great starting point for understanding relevant topics related to yours. Finally, understand which problem people are most often looking for answers for.

2. Change your language

Regardless of whether you’re a small startup or a giant organisation, it can be easy to lapse into internal speak. Try and put yourself into your customer’s shoes, or even better ask a handful of customers: when they’re looking for the product/service you offer, how do they describe it?

3. Be empathetic, not competitive

When you lead with a problem rather than a story, support that with empathy, not a competitive angle. This means backing up the benefits of the solution in real-world terms, rather than the fact that you’re number one in the market.

Catherine Warrilow is head of brand for

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