PR & thought leadership, storytelling

Opportunity: the story angle that keeps on giving

Sandra Stewart | August 10, 2016

A colleague was needling me a bit the other day for my reliance on “it’s a huge opportunity!” as a theme in story ideas. I had to admit, it is my go-to when coming up with ways to pitch our clients’ doings to journalists.

Am I lazy? Maybe. But in my defense, if you’re riding a winner, stay on it.

Opportunity is always a good story angle. It’s positive, it speaks to a natural interest in the next new thing and it’s expansive—it gives writers (in-house experts and journalists alike) a broad field to explore, including statistics that define the opportunity, case studies about how people are approaching it and visions for the future.

Here are three opportunity angles I come back to again and again because I never grow tired of them, and—more importantly—journalists don’t either.

The overlooked opportunity
The overlooked angle is a natural for businesses with sustainability-related products and services. Many resource-waste problems remain under the radar because they’re so much a part of standard practice we don’t even see them.

For example, the commercial and industrial sector spends $400 billion annually on energy, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems typically account for 44 percent of commercial buildings’ energy consumption. That’s a huge unrealized opportunity for building owners to save money and reduce carbon emissions—and a great angle for us in pitching Optimum Energy’s HVAC optimization technology. Focusing on the opportunity puts the technology in the context of a bigger story about an energy efficiency opportunity businesses may not even see. That gives journalists more to work with than a straightforward product pitch, and heightens the technology’s importance.

The created opportunity
If you’ve created a whole new opportunity, you’ve hit the jackpot. The founders of Fish 2.0 saw there was a sizable pool of entrepreneurs around the world interested in making seafood more sustainable. They also saw that investors perceived the seafood sector as lacking innovation and investment prospects.

With the Fish 2.0 business competition, which brings investors and entrepreneurs together to grow the world’s supply of sustainable seafood, our client created a new opportunity for both sides of the investment equation, and for the seafood sector as a whole to advance sustainability efforts. That’s a story line that we’ve been able to come back to again and again, as promising companies rise to the top, gain investment, and open or expand their markets.

The visionary opportunity
Describing opportunities that could exist if people rally around your long-term vision is a key aspect of thought leadership. But visionary ideas can be hard to pin down when talking with journalists—spelling out specific opportunities stemming from those visionary ideas is often the key to getting a hearing. RSF Social Finance, for instance, is always thinking about alternatives to the mainstream financial system that support an economy that works for everyone. To get journalists interested in that thinking, we focus on showing how it could create better business models or is already helping social entrepreneurs expand their positive impact.

A final thought: the secret to success with opportunity pitches is to identify an opportunity with benefits not just for the business, but also for its customers and the world at large. Showing that your business has an addressable market of X dollars may help you get financing and enhance your credibility, but showing how other people can benefit from your opportunity gets you a story.

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