Be the salient story

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 10.59.52

So, I hold a position as a developer and strategist at a university. This means I’m in touch with a lot of research and academic studies, articles and papers, and also that I conduct research and publish stuff myself from time to time.

Now, in one of the projects I’m working on at the moment – and which I’m fairly excited about, and should be able to talk more about in the near future – I’ve been researching the term ”salient” and ”saliency”. The definition in the picture above is the brief version. What it’s basically about is how important a certain issue or a certain thing is to our own interests, how urgent and how interesting it is. If it’s more salient to us, we feel it is more important and we pay more attention to it.

It’s a term used in a lot of different fields. For instance, political parties are trying to ”own” issues that they feel are salient to the voters. I’ve been more and more inclined to take it into my own box of tools that I use when developing and producing projects based around different kinds of storytelling. The more salient I can make my content, the more people I can reach and engage; without coaxing them or luring them, simply because they feel it is in their interest to do so.

There are three key issues we need to keep in mind when thinking about creating salient work:

  1. We need to know what is important to our audience. This means that we need to know very clearly and very adequatly who our audience actually is, what their habits are, what their needs and and what matters to them. There is no other way of knowing this except to do research – and to do proper research on the right people, we need to define who these people are. No more ”this is for everyone”; find the right niche(s) to target.
  1. We need to build the content and the strategy around the content in a matter that stays logically connected to past pieces of salient content, as well as future pieces. Think of the saliency of a subject or an issue as a river – it’s new water floating by every second, but the river stays the same. And for someone depending on the river for food, transportation or water, the saliency of the river remains the same.
  1. We need to be extremely flexible – fluid – in our approach to content and the audience. What is salient today can have changed by tomorrow, depending on any number of external factors. And there are levels of saliency that needs to be taken into consideration. Almost everyone feels a need to be happy, to be content, to be successful etc – but these are vague salient factors, and need honing and narrowing down for anyone to be able to act on them. The better you can narrow down, the better you can create stories and content that build on that saliency. And with all the tools available today for research, social media monitoring etc, there’s nothing stopping anyone of us from keeping our ears to the ground 24/7.
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