Cynics say that the best ideas have been plucked to death. To me, originality is constant and ongoing because human society always in a state of constant regeneration.
You find that there are dozens of quotes that observe how history repeats itself. Most take the harsh view that humanity cannot or will not change course (usually something simple) to alter a predictable outcome (usually something gloomy). A few philosophers (Carlos Castaneda for one) have suggested that if you open your mind and learn from history, you can change what may seem like a predictable outcome. Therefore, if originality seems wanting, we must to look closer to find new ideas.
That’s how it goes in writing: there’s always a new story in an old one. For instance, there’s nothing interesting about “dog bites man,” but the world wants to know when there’s something new about the dog we didn’t know before – it has only three legs, it was a big dog, a small dog, a dog that jumped from a 2nd story window to attack the man – or that the man bit the dog. You may say this is “spinning” a story, but I believe that “angling” is a better word because it describes a method.
The easiest demonstration for “angling” might be found in the ancient art of “plank-making.” Yep. Lumber.
A master plank cutter studies a log of prime lumber carefully before he cuts it into planks. He studies the grain and other features to predict how it will produce certain characteristics in final product. He may cut into knots or grain to make interesting patterns. He may include rot or burns for a splash of color. He may cut into straight grain to produce strong and rigid planks.
In my master marcom toolkit, “angling” is a discovery process that may be deployed for content development, messaging, and social media. You can apply it to any story or narrative. Change the angle of attack by adding a feature, a benefit, a concept, a human interest. With a new angle, you can set a new theme or reset opinions. New angles may help expand the artistic or emotional effect of the story. Seemingly negative points are often transformed because a new angle emphasizes a positive result. Normal and average situations evaporate because a new angle produces a previously ignored or overlooked value.
Here’s an anecdote about literal angles from a retired PR practitioner who was once an account manager for Ruder Finn:
At the close of World War II, RCA Records announced that it was releasing an “unbreakable” phonograph record. Until that time, records had been made of clay and were very fragile. The new RCA record was made of vinyl, which was far more durable. To prove the invulnerability of the new record, a publicity executive conjured up a stunt to drop both types of platters from the top of the RCA building in downtown New York. The date was set and the press and public showed up in droves to see the platter splatter.
At the designated time, the president of RCA dropped the old clay record by its edge and it zipped straight down to the street and disintegrated on contact. Then came the new super-platter. He dropped it in the same way as its predecessor and, to everybody’s surprise, it too shattered like an old dinner plate. Facing public impalement or worse, the panicked publicity executive asked the stunned president to drop another vinyl record, “…but as you would if you were going to set it on a record player.” The change in aerodynamics caused the record to drift down to the waiting crowd, where it bounced off the pavement intact.
As you work for your angles, carefully survey where they may lead – look for the angles within angles. Dig up possible conflicts and beware of side-effects like unintentional contrasts that may cause problems later.
Remember to calibrate your words carefully. In the case of our intrepid publicity executive, a 90-degree change in his angle was enough to change the perspective of his story. He saved his neck and ended up with a great public demonstration. Things are not so easy for the rest of us, but his last-minute realization is worth remembering.
Here’s another way to look at angling. A good marcom pro never forgets the essential facts related to a product, service or event. So what do you do? Put them in bullet points in the middle of the paragraph? No. You fold them into personal, situational, and demonstrative narratives – more angles within angles.
With a personal angle, the facts have a human touch (think ‘testimonial’ or ‘human interest’); a situational angle can involve an anecdote or two. Demonstrative angles are, for the most part, the weakest tool because they often fall on a list of features and benefits – which is okay, as long as the demonstration itself optimizes reader interest, not simply so that you can boast about a feature you think is cool or interesting.
That’s all for now.