Welcome to the second installment in your step-by-step guide to building The Red Thread® of your message or content. This time around, you’re looking for one of the first big ways to differentiate your message and give your audience a big “aha!” What does that? Presenting your audience with a problem they didn’t know they had. Let’s find yours!
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM STATEMENT?
Fundamentally, your Problem Statement explains the real reason your audience has been struggling to achieve their Goal.
Remember that your Goal Statement should fit comfortably in this sentence:
We can all agree we want to know… [GOAL].
Similarly, your Problem Statement should fit comfortably in this sentence:
While there are barriers we all know exist, the real problem is… [TWO-PART PROBLEM].
It should also meet the following criteria:
- It should be something the audience is not already consciously aware of (if it is, it should be in your Goal Statement, instead)
- It should be something they can actually do something about (e.g., not “fear”)
- It should always have two parts – something that represents their current perspective, and something that represents yours
- It can be summarized as a pair of words or a pair of short phrases that complement each other and/or have a relationship that the audience would readily acknowledge and understand
- Both parts of your Problem should be required for the change or solution you recommend, but are NOT the solution itself
Despite the barriers we all know exist, the real problem is…
- “…having to rely more on what patients recall than what tests reveal” — recall / reveal (life science startup client UrSure; project: investor pitch)
- “…Big Data doesn’t just create more knowledge, it creates more unknowns” — more knowledge / more unknowns (client Tricia Wang’s TED talk)
- “…the relationship between ‘content output” (what and how much we produce) and ‘content exposure’ (who sees it, and how many)” — content output / content exposure (nonprofit media company client; project: persuasive messaging coaching)
- “…seeing fear as one big thing, rather than as a collection of many things” — one thing / one thing made of many things (client Linda Ugelow; project: drafting keynote)
- “…focusing on positions more than the people in them ” — positions / people (client Tracy Timm; project: diversifying message to a new audience)
- “…a ring is a symbol, but the kind of ring can be a symbol, too” — ring / kind of ring (DeBeers — not a client, just one of my favorite examples!)
- “…we think the answer lies in being ‘fearless,’ more than fearing fear itself less” — fearless / fearing fear less (client Judi Holler; project: revising keynote)
- “…we hope for leaders while training followers, however unintentionally” — leaders / followers (client Ted Ma; project: differentiating core message)
HOW TO BUILD YOUR PROBLEM STATEMENT
STEP ONE: Look for the patterns in the barriers your Audience sees.
- DO THIS: List out the barriers your Audience sees as getting in the way of their Goal — what do they say is getting in their way? (Hint: it’s almost always some combination of “time,” “money,” or “other people”)
- DO THIS: Brainstorm what those barriers have in common with each other
- DO THIS: Label the categories the barriers have in common
STEP TWO: Explore why you disagree with the conventional or usual approach to achieving the Goal.
- DO THIS: List all the “real” problems you see as standing in the way of your Audience’s Goal
- DO THIS: Brainstorm what those “real” problems have in common with each other
- DO THIS: Label the categories the problems have in common
STEP THREE: Find the “Problem Pair” (aka, the “Duck Bunny”)
- DO THIS: Combine your Step One and Step Two brainstorms into your Problem Pair (aka Duck Bunny!), a pair of words or short phrases that are related, but are in tension with each other
- DO THIS: Draft a Problem Statement that includes both parts of your Problem Pair
If you’re struggling with where to start with your Problem Pair:
- DO THIS: Using the variables “X” and “Y,” determine the relationship between your Audience’s current perspective (X) and your new (contrasting, consistent) one (Y)
- DO THIS: Draft a Problem Statement that includes both variables of your Problem Pair
Once you’ve crafted your Problem Statement:
- DO THIS: Once you’ve defined your Problem Pair and drafted your Problem Statement, look for opportunities to give your Problem a name
If you’re struggling with your Problem Statement, don’t worry. When I’m working with clients on this, the Problem is often where we spend the most time. It’s worth the effort, though, for two reasons. First, because how you frame what’s really going on separates you from others with similar messages or offerings. Second, it validates what your audience is already doing and gives them a reason to listen to an alternative.
As with last time, it’s your turn: I’d love to see what Goal and Problem Statements you’ve come up with for your idea or business! Send them to me! I’m happy to give you some quick feedback on what you’ve come up with!Your Problem Statement explains the real reason your audience has been struggling to achieve their goal. Click To Tweet
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