In our fast-moving and cluttered information-based society, it’s unreasonable to expect that your quest is going to often (or ever) be at the top of the news cycle. So learning how to tie in, adapt around, and build upon other events is a crucial skill in keeping a content stream flowing. 1. Scope it up or down. It’s easy to get stuck in a self-created rut, so ask yourself:
What cultural, environmental, or economic obstacles do you face in achieving your quest?
- Do you have an interesting perspective on them or their impact?
- What other problems are being caused by these same obstacles?
- Who is benefiting from or getting hurt by these obstacles?
This series of questions should help bring to mind a number of larger, tangential issues where your organization can share expertise, offer opinions, or provide a new angle.
In order to scope it down, ask yourself:
- Do you know of any individual or group that has benefited from your work?
- Are there individuals or groups that are or would be especially affected by the problem that you hope to solve/prevent?
- Do you have a perspective on how a county, state, federal, foreign, or international issue affects individuals or groups?
- How does your quest play out at the local and individual levels?
2. Look for quest alignment opportunities. Chances are, you aren’t the only organization facing or trying to solve these problems, and that these problems cause or contribute to a multitude of other problems. So look for groups with complementary quests, or build coalitions out of diverse groups who happen to share an interest in one or more aspects of your quest. How can you partner with others to magnify your voice?
Similarly, think about legislation, natural disasters, or economic trends that effect or are affected by your quest. How can you contribute an interesting perspective or inform the larger debate?
3. Find your line(s) in the sand. Anyone on a quest faces obstacles and opponents. Who and what are yours? Why do you disagree with these people or ideas? What “common knowledge” do you know to be wrong or incomplete?
In particular, being clear about not only what you stand for but also what you stand against creates opportunities for telling your story. These include:
- Responding to, explaining, and/or correcting erroneous or misguided content. (While there is an appalling amount of unproven, misleading, or outright untrue content out there, be extremely careful to verify the facts or anecdotes you use to debunk them. Your efforts will backfire if someone ends up debunking you.)
- Creating a dialogue with people of differing viewpoints, to both share your own story and to learn where there may be opportunities for persuasion or partnership.(If your organization can find a “sparring partner” on your issue, this opens up great opportunities to refine your story, work together for some form of a debate, debunk misconceptions, refer others to that group when they are looking for opposing views, etc.
- Tracking news on your obstacle or opponents to identify additional angles for incorporating your story into existing conversations and debates.
4. Find “the rest of the story.” Why is your quest worth pursuing? What do you know that would motivate others to change their mind or more strongly support your quest? What alternate perspective, arguments, or facts can you provide that most people don’t know about your issue? By providing new material or insights, you create opportunities for people to change their minds without being “wrong” and give ammunition to your current supporters.
5. Ripples in the pond. Organize all of your issues into a diagram like the one above to visualize how different types and scopes of related content can be used to make “ripples in the pond” of your audiences’ mind. Put your most tightly and precisely defined quest in the middle and put your more tangential, secondary, or global aspects of your quest in the succeeding circles. Try moving them around a bit to see if you can make a coherent “flow” of issues. While opportunity will guide some of your decisions, you should largely be communicating about these issues in the order of their relationship to the central quest: you should be looking at how each of these issues ties back to your quest each time you address them, and the more directly they relate, the more often they should be tackled.