Start with the “Why”

by Ashley Tinstman

Today, you have to write a news release.  Tomorrow, you need to finish two blog posts.  Next week, you’re planning a major event and managing a photo shoot.  You’ve got a list a mile long of things to do, but have you ever stopped to think, “Why?”  Why are you writing that news release?  What’s the goal behind that event you’re planning?

There’s a great TED Talk by Simon Sinek on this topic.  He illustrates it through what he calls the Golden Circle.  Take a moment and imagine three concentric circles on a sheet of paper—or better yet, draw it out.  The outermost circle is labeled “what,” the middle circle is labeled “how,” and the innermost circle is the “why.”  In other words, the “what” is your tactics, the “how” is your strategies and the “why” is your goal.

For most of us, our natural instinct is to start with the “what.”  It’s easy to tell people about our tactics and what we do.  Though slightly more challenging, many of us are able to define our strategies—the “how” of what we do.  But there are very few who start with and remember the “why.”

But when you do, it makes all the difference.  It impacts how you write the story, plan the event, pitch a journalist and the myriad other things you do as a communications professional.

So, how do you make sure you’re starting with “why?”  My suggestion would be to do what Simon Sinek does—map it out.  Draw an actual road map for your project, starting with your goal.  And if you don’t know what the goal is, it’s OK to ask or even be the catalyst that helps figure it out.  But once you build that road map, you can make sure that your strategies and tactics are always tethered to the “why.”

So, ask yourself:  Are you guilty of leading with tactics or strategies, rather than the goal?  If so, challenge yourself to go through this process.  You might find yourself looking at things through a wider lens.

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