Published on February 5, 2014
Perfecting Personality Profiles Creating compelling business coverage through compelling characters By Jacqui Banaszynski
Yesterday The WHY, WHO and WHAT of Profiles • How personality profiles inform and elevate business coverage • How to identify good profile subjects • The core characteristics of good profiles • A range of profile types
Today The HOW of Profiles • • • • Access and sourcing of profiles Best practices of reporting for profiles Effective writing structures for profiles Alternative profile approaches and structures
Response to homework Photo by Flickr user thelittleone417
People are memorable due to character Deeds or actions Signature traits Words Defining moments … So, too, with businesses
Profiles are not… • Resumes • Chronological life biographies • Lists of employment or accomplishments • Q&A interviews
Effective profiles are character revealed through… DEFINING MOMENTS that demonstrate character, value, motivation, style SCENES that show people in place, time, culture and situation; put people in context Relevant and REVELATORY DETAIL that shows not just what someone does but who someone is
Memorable TRAITS, DEEDS, WORDS
Poll Question #1 About what percentage of business leaders you seek to interview ask you to submit questions in advance?
Poll Question #2 How many of the companies or businesses you cover have a policy that prohibits employees from talking to reporters?
Access & agreement 1. Know & ―sell‖ your purpose. 2. Don‘t be boring. (Do your homework; be fresh.) 3. Use leverage when needed & fair. 4. Bide your time / look for opportunity. 5. Show up and invest time. 6. Remember Negative Space profiles. 7. Use gurus, guides and intermediaries.
1. Report for story • Ask storyteller questions • Put subjects back in the movie of their own life • Report with all your senses (including sixth sense of emotion/perception) Photo by Flickr user gmilldrum
2. Use frames • Ask constructed questions • Day in life • Defining moments • Numbers and prompts • • Photo by Flickr user Dave Morris • Five mistakes Three proudest moments Best day/worst day
3. Seek scenes • Choose scenes or moments that reveal the essence of character • • Interview and observe story subjects in their ‗native habitat‘ • Photo by Flickr user U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District Follow people in action and interaction • Place people in place that reveals (home, office, outdoors, factory, car) Notice, ask about, use surrounding artifacts or status details (photos, art, jewelry, clothes, collected treasures)
"Why I bought a house in Detroit for $500" by Drew Philp (BuzzFeed) Scene reveals neighbor Paul Weertz (Photo by Garrett MacLean) All but two of the houses on the block behind Forestdale are gone. Instead of letting it slowly fill up with trash and despair, Paul planted an orchard. In the summer peaches and pears and apples and plums grow on the trees, and vegetables of every make and model grow in the soil. Neighbors care for bees and collect honey in autumn. In the winter, Paul floods it to make a backyard ice rink. He‘s still tinkering with a homemade way to groom the ice, and recently I found him back there on his knees with a clothing iron plugged into an extension cord, trying to iron the ice smooth. That didn‘t work. He‘ll figure something out eventually.
“Inside 23andMe Founder Anne Wojcicki’s $99 DNA Revolution” by Elizabeth Murphy (pseudonym), Fast Company Every day, Wojcicki rides her elliptical bike to the 23andMe headquarters, in Mountain View. She has no office there of her own. Instead, she totes her laptop over either to a red sofa near the research department or a table in the cafeteria, which is across from the gym where her employees gather every afternoon for yoga, Pilates, or Crossfit.
4. Compress backstory • Resist temptation to frontload • Summarize the common or clichéd • Select with relevance and discipline • Let readers fill in the blanks Photo by Flickr user capsicina
Wojcicki grew up nearby, on the Stanford University campus, where her father is a renowned professor of physics. Her mother is a high school journalism teacher. Both were incredibly frugal. Her mother used to take her and her two sisters to Sizzler and order two allyou-can-eat salad-bar plates, having the girls rotate in the bathroom to avoid detection. Inside 23andMe
"Meet New York’s first family of tax evasion" by Aaron Elstein, Crain’s New York Photo by Flickr user marsmett talahassee The Seggerman kids also were successful. Henry was a movie producer who brought Crocodile Dundee to American audiences; Suzanne made documentaries with Ken Burns; Yvonne ran a nonprofit playhouse in Pawtucket, R.I., and now tills the fields as an organic farmer in the state; and brother Edmund was an adviser to John and Lincoln Chafee when they were U.S. senators. He is now a real estate agent.
"Refugee tries to lock up a two-wheel lifeline" by Leonora LaPeter Anton, Tampa Bay Times Photo by Edmund Fountain She reviewed his paperwork. Refugee from Liberia. Victim of torture. No income. … Larry sat there, wincing as pain shot up his shoulder. It still hurt — five years after coming to the United States — from the way his Liberian captors had tied his arms behind his back. He pointed to a scar on his head where they'd shot him.
5. Report parallel timelines • • • Photo by Flickr user Marchin Wichary Standard lifeline or bio Defining-moment timeline History, culture, political, social, economic timeline
“From ordinary girl to international icon” (Terry Schiavo obituary) By Kelley Benham, Tampa Bay Times ―Before the prayer warriors massed outside her window, before gavels pounded in six courts, before the Vatican issued a statement, before the president signed a midnight law and the Supreme Court turned its head, Terri Schiavo was just an ordinary girl, with two overweight cats, an unglamorous job and a typical American life…‖
Timeline reporting Standard lifeline or bio •1952: Born •1970: Graduated high school •1974: Graduated college •1974: First job •1975: First award (not a loser) •1976/78: New jobs •1981:Got to metro paper •1984: Found home at Pioneer Press •1986: Finalist for Pulitzer •1988: Pulitzer •2000: Begin teaching •2005: Leave newspapers Defining-moment timeline •1966: Summer camp •1968: First love/ ambition v. passion •1970: New love couldn‘t last •1973: Internship Wall St. Journal •1978: West Coast/ life love •1983: Gay rights movement/AIDS •1985: Go overseas •1986: Brother is killed •1994: Return to West Coast •2007s: Mother‘s dementia •2008: Lose savings
Timeline reporting Defining-moment timeline History/context timeline •1966: Summer camp •1968: First love/ climbed water tower •1970: New love couldn‘t last •1973: Internship Wall St. Journal •1978: West Coast/ life love •1983: Gay rights movement/AIDS •1985: Go overseas •1987: Meet Dick & Bert •1991: Leave of absence to teach •1996: Brother is killed •2002: China trips begin •2005: Leave newsroom/mother‘s illness •2008: Lose savings •1952: Post WWII/Red scare •1960s: Beatles, hippies, Woodstock •1972: Title IX, Roe v. Wade •1974: Vietnam War, Nixon resigns •Late 1970s: Women‘s movement •Early 1980s: Environmental movement, recession, HIV/AIDS •1980s AIDS crisis •1990s: Globalization, dot-com boom •2000s: Dot-com, real estate bust •2001: 9/11 •2010s: International chaos/ religious conflict/ who knows?
PROFILE STRUCTURES Timelines are essential to structure – but should not be a prison or a crutch.
1. Topper with chronology • Engaging scene, anecdotal or newsy lede • Summary ―nut‖ that anchors purpose of profile (newsworthiness, issue at play, etc.) • Chronological rest-of-story • PROS: Easy to write, easy to read, fast • CONS: If too long, can read ―tired‖ and predictable • KEY: Be selective about chrono moments; pace the piece to move through history. Minimize transitions • REMEMBER: Use bio-boxes for checklist info
LEDE: Scene, anecdote, vignette, moment Foreshadows subject and purpose SUMMARY NUT Who is the person Why being profiled Back to beginning Next significant event Next Next KICKER: End with the NOW or what might come next
2. Broken narrative WEAVE NARRATIVE (movement, action, scene, detail, character) WITH EXPOSITION (context, backstory, significance, nut material) 3/2 or VARIATION
Introduce character, scene, moment, vignette EXPOSITION / BACKSTORY / CONTEXT / NUT Put character in context of issue they illustrate or news they are part of RETURN TO NARRATIVE Scene: in the moment or reconstructed Chose scene or description to reinforce focus EXPOSITION / BACKSTORY / CONTEXT Another aspect of the news or issue END NARRATIVE Last scene anchoring character
3. Wall Street Journal marries Broken Narrative • Think cinematically: think in scenes (or chapters) • Chapters (sections) for scenes, topics or a combo of both • Vary size and pacing and voice of chapters • Can bend time and introduce additional characters and issues • Remember to return to main character
LEDE ELEGANT SUMMARY NUT / FORESHADOW HINT OF NEWS OR CONTEXT SEGUE SET UP STORY CHAPTER OR SCENE EXPOSITION OR BACKSTORY OR BRIDGE CHAPTER OR SCENE EXPOSITION OR BACKSTORY OR BRIDGE CHAPTER OR SCENE EXPOSITION OR BACKSTORY OR BRIDGE LAST CHAPTER OR END RETURN TO PRESENT OR CLOSE THE LOOP OR SET UP THE FUTURE
4. Alternative or formatted structures • • • • Dewar‘s format Timeline & map popouts Effective Q&As Profiles by the numbers
Profiles by the numbers of a reporting/writing/teaching/ traveling career: Jacqui Banaszynski • • • • • • • • • • Bylines Inches of copy Countries visited Students taught Miles in the air Frequent-flier miles acquired Nights away from home Pens carried in purse Dinners missed Birthdays spent in odd places
Car Salesman • A car salesman in your community has been named businessman of the year in a tough economy. • WHAT NUMBERS WOULD YOU PURSUE FOR A BY-THENUMBERS PROFILE? Photo by Flickr user David Defoe
5. Dewar’s Profiles • Legacy of ad campaign for Dewar‘s Scotch Whisky • Borrowed by other campaigns: Amex, MasterCard's ―Priceless,‖ etc. • Good for multiple subjects who are part of a larger story • Good for well-known people you need to profile again • Formatting is tight; reporting is deep • Choice of prompts essential
• • • • • • • • • • Name Age Job Family Most important accomplishment Best adventure Personality Dream Quote Scotch: Dewar‘s
Brew-pub wars • Three master beermeisters are operating microbrew pubs in your community. Each has its own personality. • WHAT PROMPTS WOULD YOU USE TO DO DEWAR‘S PROFILES OF EACH?
Homework 1. Read: “Inside 23andMe Founder Anne Wojcicki’s $99 DNA Revolution.” Answer one of three questions. 2. Read: “Refugee tries to lock up a two-wheel lifeline.” Answer one of three questions. Please email your answers to: Cassandra.Nicholson@businessjournalism.org by 11:59 ET tonight, Feb. 6.
Questions? firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @jacquib Slides, video, handouts, homework at: http://bit.ly/profiles2014 Photo by Flickr user Xurble
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