Identify the problem: Step One When Creating Content

Published by Algorithmic Global on

Identify the Problem

Identify the problem and provide a solution. That’s how you demonstrate value.

But how to begin? Read on and find out.

If you read the last post about the seven steps of story structure you know there’s a framework about how to get the content organized and formatted so that it flows

The first step is identifying the problem your reader, the character of the story is having. This will allow you to hook your readers from the first sentence, every writer’s goal. The character is your target audience. 

Types of Problems

What kinds of problems could they be dealing with? This is your chance to paint a picture with your words. Some examples:

  • You’ve dropped your phone again. (someone selling screen repair)
  • Dinner’s done and you’ve become self-conscious about your breath. (an ad for mints)
  • The room is finally furnished after your big move but something is missing. (selling houseplants)

In other words, step one is about identifying what crisis your target audience might be facing at the beginning of the story. It’s a reflection of basic human needs. Any problem you come up with will reflect a human need without even trying. For those who are curious:

  • Dropping the phone threatens a person’s need for social interaction, to communicate
  • Self-conscious plays on a person’s need to belong
  • Something missing from the home is about the basic human need for shelter

The Power of Questions

You can also identify the problem by asking a question instead of setting the stage for your target audience. 

For example, if I was selling electric fences, I could say, “Do you know where your dog goes when you let it outside?” In this example, I’m implying the problem: that there’s a chance the above-mentioned dog escapes. This gets followed up with a mention of the desire, something like, “You want to make sure Fido is happy, safe, and can’t run away.”

See? Once the problem has been identified the second step, desire comes naturally. Bonus points if you can use the basic human need in your desire! Going back to the three examples above:

  • You want to have your phone fixed so you can see your loved ones when they call you on Facetime.
  • With fresh breath, you’ll be ready in case you need to make a good first impression.
  • Your home should be a reflection of your style and taste, somewhere you can come home to decompress, leaving the stress of the world behind.

Identifying the problem is the foundation you need to build your entire content. With a problem your ideal reader might face you’ll be able to identify your target audience, work backward to determine the basic human need that isn’t being met, and set yourself up to work on the second step of the 7 steps of story structure (credit for this method goes to John Truby, as described in his book The Anatomy of Story). 

Hope this helps! Stay tuned for the next post in the series about story structure, desire.

Categories: Copywriting


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