The PR Polaroid Test 📸
Another lifetime ago, before I got started in PR and influencer marketing, I was a copywriter for various tech startups — and back then, a lot of my work was in SaaS.
If you’ve ever worked in SaaS, then you know how easy it is to get caught up in the platform’s features, product updates and bells and whistles of what the product does. You also know how notoriously difficult it is to engaging copy for SaaS.
(Especially if the CEO/founder is also an engineer… IYKYK).
But features, product updates, etc.– they aren’t interesting. Not to investors. Not to the media. Not even to your ideal customer.
They’ll never replace the need for an actual…story.
This is why I developed the “Polaroid Test” to make sure that the sales and marketing copy (and later the PR messaging) was not falling into irrelevant minutiae – but into a story that the media would want to tell, and that ideal customers and investors would want to engage with.
15 years later it’s still one of the best “tests” to use when writing media pitches, press releases, anything that requires a “story beyond the story.”
Hint: Which is anything sales, marketing, or PR related. Unless you are writing a user’s manual, the Polaroid test is applicable.
So here’s the simple exercise I still do today (myself, and with my team at Pink Shark PR do when pitching).
1. Take a mental “Polaroid” picture of your customer’s day before they met you. What does it look like? Where are they struggling? What is bothering them? Where do those struggles eat into their day, their happiness, their time with family? Where does a life without YOU (your innovation, product, way of thinking) make their life harder, bleaker, more stressful, not as efficient? Get the image clear in your mind, and jot down what you see on paper. It’s very helpful to assign an actual character to this exercise.
2. Now take that same character, and take a snapshot of their lives 24 hours after using your product, 24 days later, 24 months later. What do their lives look like? How are they more productive at work? How are you putting time back into their lives? Where else does your innovation enrich aspects of their lives/days/families. How do they feel? Get the image clear in your head and jot down what you see on paper. What are the biggest differences in image no.1 vs image no. 2?
3. Take it one step further. Remember, the more you can connect your media-facing story to what society needs, the stronger of a pitch you have. What is the ripple effect here? How does your product, leadership, innovation change the industry for the better. Where do you promote change where we’ve needed it — and why is that important?
Once you have all “Polaroid” snapshots you’re ready to begin crafting a relevant story that will hit a “headline” grand slam for customers, media, and investors.
Try it, and LMK what you think