3 Min Read | Storytelling

“The headline should have been…”

“The headline should’ve been…”

As a recovering PR professional, I was most struck by that line from Peloton CEO John Foley’s recent internal crisis memo following a negative WSJ story. Believe me, I’ve been there. What happens between a deskside chat with a reporter on strong restructuring efforts and a subhead proclaiming the company has six months to live is a painful reminder that the media is not your friend.

Guess what? The headline is never going to be right.

At the end of the day, the media is going to write the story it wants to. That’s its prerogative, and no number of presentations or briefing documents will change that. And it’s definitely not going to consider those “sample headlines” you worked up for the last slide of your PowerPoint.

But don’t throw those dream headlines into the (digital) trash can—write your own stories.

Right now, as a company grappling with powerful, global macroeconomic forces, your money might be better spent on a content program that will see you through disruptions and win the long game.

In fact, at SJR we’ve seen this story before. On the heels of the 2008 financial crisis, we helped many global corporations navigate their way through the wreckage. Not through media outreach, but with content. In a downturn, creating content is a cost-effective and highly pliable way to build a runway to recovery by staying on the radar of future prospects. And it allows you to bypass information gatekeepers and get your own unadulterated message out in real time.

Today, the need to create your own content is ever-more eminent. The current polarized and clicks-driven media environment creates an even bigger delta between the story you need to tell and the story that’s going to be told. This is not helped by spates of self-reinforcing stories on economic pessimism.

However, by creating a dynamic owned-content ecosystem, you can share the full story of your own pivots and transformations while proactively shaping the conversation in the direction you want.


Design Your Own Life

Creating your own corporate newsroom or content site is a powerful first step in taking charge of your own narrative.

But not just any newsroom: Ditch the sites only focused on reposting generic press releases and instead focus on storytelling that gets to the core of who you are as a company and what you hope to achieve for the future.

By unlocking the fascinating stories of innovation and genuinely unique ways of thinking within your company—i.e., the fuel needed to power a true newsroom—you’ll broadcast the full range of nuance that shapes how you are operating.

And while an errant story by an ill-informed journalist can derail your own meticulously constructed internal communications program, a fully owned external presence can effectively ensure that every part of your communications ecosystem is reinforming the company’s message outwardly.


Own the Means of Production  

While major news outlets have broad distribution, coverage here only reaches a scattershot audience.

By creating your own stories, you’re able to use advanced paid, owned, and earned distribution tactics to send relevant content to the most important audiences for your company. As part of a virtuous cycle, you’re able to use those learnings to further refine your own content and better target key groups. And, importantly, none of this content will ever live behind a discouraging media paywall.

“The headline is this, because that’s what we posted to our own site.” That’s the story I want to hear as more companies embrace the power of their own content efforts in the coming difficult months.