The legendary CNN interviewer serves as an example of ways to generate compelling content for blogs, presentations, and more
CNN's Larry King is the consummate interviewer because he listens more than he talks, asks smart questions, and comes across as genuinely interested in people. Emulating King's techniques is a good way to generate fresh, compelling content for blogs, newsletters, presentations, or videos you use for your business. But creating content people want to read, listen to, or watch is hard work, as many business professionals are quickly finding out. According to a 2008 Technorati survey, 95% of blogs are abandoned—the blogs haven't been updated for 120 days. Here are five ways to unleash your inner Larry King (suspenders optional).
1. Remember that everyone has a story. As a graduate student at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, I returned from a field assignment—a protest—with no story. Since only a few people showed up, I told my instructor I thought it wasn't worth a story. It was the wrong thing to say. My teacher read me the riot act. "There's always a story!" he yelled. Everyone has a story to tell. You just have to dig for it. Stories are everywhere and you can discover those stories as long as you show a genuine interest in people and you do more listening than talking.
2. Piggyback on the news cycle. The day after the 2009 American Idol finale, I watched a presentation in which the speaker said, "We asked our staff to vote on the final design and the results were surprising, much as the results of last night's American Idol surprised Adam Lambert fans." He showed a photograph of the finalists—the runner-up, Lambert, and the winner, Kris Allen. It was clever, funny, and generated such a spontaneous debate among the audience, the speaker had to playfully ask them to end the discussion so he could get back to the presentation. I don't know if this speaker was really a fan of the show, but he knew what the water-cooler talk would be that day. Keep abreast of the latest trends. Monitor sites like Technorati, Google (GOOG) Trends, Bing's (MSFT) xRank, or Twitter Search to see what people are talking about.
3. Read blogs, newspapers, and publications outside your specialty. I don't work in IT, but I started reading CIO magazine and eWeek because some of our e-mails come from technologists who are looking for ways to improve the way they communicate their projects to customers. Reading these magazines helps me to understand their world. Earlier this year before a speech to agricultural leaders, I picked up a few issues of The Packer (unless you grow produce, you've probably never heard of it). Good thing I did. One of the organizers of the conference had been profiled in one of the issues. By referencing the publication and the story, it helped create a bond between me and the audience. Just as successful advertising, marketing, and public-relations professionals wouldn't think of pitching a new client without being steeped in the publications their prospects read, show your clients that you care about their industry. Getting out of your comfort zone will also help you create original content.
4. Produce original content. The basics are simple: Do your own research and present the results in a compelling way. It needn't be complicated. For example, I will be speaking at an upcoming Chamber of Commerce event on the topic of inspirational leadership. In the course of my research, I learned that a local company had been voted one of the best places to work in its industry. I contacted the company's HR department and scheduled a tour. I'll learn something new, take some pictures, and present that information in my presentation. Think of yourself as a reporter. It takes some legwork, but the results will be worth it.
5. Be interested to be interesting. You can learn a lot by asking questions and shutting your mouth. The other week I had coffee with one of the readers of this column. He lives in my city, contacted me, and wanted to share his insights from his experience in the auto industry. I followed Larry King's lead: I asked questions and did more listening than talking. Well, in the course of the conversation, I learned something that might turn into a topic for an upcoming column. I may also incorporate his insights into my presentations.
There are more ways to create content than ever before. While you don't need training as a journalist, it pays to think like one when you deliver information about your company online—or to a room full of people.