Perfecting
Personality Profiles
Creating compelling business coverage through
compelling characters

By Jacqui Banaszynski
Memorable
characters
What makes them so?
People are memorable
due to character
Deeds or actions
Signature traits
Words
Defining moments

… So, too, with businesses
Poll Question #1
What percentage of your business-beat
stories are profiles or focus primarily on
a central character?
Why profiles?
•
•
•

Businesses are PEOPLE
Started by, run by, made
successful by, sometimes
ruined by PEOPLE
They affect ...
Why profiles?
•

At heart, any business is just a
compilation of the characters

•
•
•

Who run it
Who make it run
Who are...
Poll Question #2
What type of person do you or your
editors usually select as profile subjects?
Whom to profile?
Obvious subjects:

•
•

Businesspeople or
businesses in the
news
Or in the bull's-eye of
a controversy

P...
General
Motors
CEO Mary
Barra
1st WOMAN TO
HEAD A MAJOR
AUTO COMPANY
Will her character
change the
culture, character
or o...
Jeff Bezos
AMAZON CEO BUYS
WASHINGON POST

Visionary remaker of
retail takes on
revered traditional
institution
Will he st...
Bernie Madoff
Slam-dunk profile
subjects
•
•
•
•

Firsts or barrier busters
Heroes or goats
Winners or losers
True newsmakers

BUT… you ...
Search your community
or beat for:
• People facing a dramatic
challenge or going through a
compelling transformation
• Tur...
Pope Francis
Rocks the
Vatican with
changes
Captivates
journalists
and the
public
Martha Stewart
Look for survivors

•

•
•
•

Characters who defy
the odds

Whom we love to hate
Whom we admire or
follow

...
Profile potential is everywhere
• The passionate
craftsperson

•

•

The expert who can
explain how things
work or why the...
When the
story becomes
the business
Which becomes
an ongoing story
as people who buy
the product buy
into the story
(glass...
Or just a great story…
The business is really the story
behind the business

The product and business take on
the CHARACTE...
Community
characters
The local shop owner
or repairman or
salesperson or butcher,
baker, undertaker we
all know … but don’...
Poll Question #3
What are the two most important
elements of a good personality profile?
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
S...
Memorable
TRAITS,
DEEDS,
WORDS
PROFILE TYPES
• Not one-size fits all

• Must match publication, purpose, audience
interest and newsworthiness
• Adjust to...
1. Whole Earth
• Cradle-to-current
• Obituaries
• Major figures or news
(Don’t overuse. Subject, space,
interest, access o...
Janet Yellen
New Chair
of the Federal Reserve

•

Person known in small
circles bursts into
national awareness or
prominen...
But you can also profile in a

...Paragraph

Photo by Flickr user Windell Oskay

• Character captured in a
phrase or parag...
"He was Dobie Gillis turned
crusty Army scout..."

http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_24980304/pioneer-press-senior-ed...
2. Newsmaker/Niche
•

Focus on key aspect
connected to news of the
moment or situation being
explored.

•

Include only ba...
3. Micro
• Represents or reveals a
macro issue or situation
• Uses one to tell the story of
many
• Micro subject must be
c...
4. Interview
• Often necessary for
celebrity or limitedaccess profiles
• “My lunch with …”
• Done well, puts readers
in th...
Melinda
Gates
Careful
Controlled
Guarded
Seldom accessible
Always on message

But… how
interesting if…
5. Negative space
• Lack of access or
cooperation
• Obituaries
• Control freaks
• Geographically challenged
• Subjects buf...
“INTO THE
WILD”
Jon Krakauer
never met
Chris
McCandless,
but brought
him to life
through the
stories of
those who
had.
“Roger and Me”
Michael Moore’s quest
to interview GM CEO
Roger Smith.
Interview never
happens, but character
of place, cul...
Tomorrow
The HOW of Profiles
•
•
•
•

Access and sourcing of profiles
Best practices of reporting for profiles
Effective w...
Homework

Make two lists:

1. List the 5 most important and influential people on your beat. If you don’t cover
a specific...
Questions?
banaszynskij@missouri.edu
Twitter: @jacquib
Slides, video, handouts,
homework at:
http://bit.ly/profiles2014
Ph...
Perfecting Personality Profiles with Jacqui Banaszynski - Day 1
Perfecting Personality Profiles with Jacqui Banaszynski - Day 1
Perfecting Personality Profiles with Jacqui Banaszynski - Day 1
Perfecting Personality Profiles with Jacqui Banaszynski - Day 1
Perfecting Personality Profiles with Jacqui Banaszynski - Day 1
Perfecting Personality Profiles with Jacqui Banaszynski - Day 1
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Perfecting Personality Profiles with Jacqui Banaszynski - Day 1

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Pulitzer winner Jacqui Banaszynski presents Session One of "Perfecting Personality Profiles," a two-day reporting webinar hosted by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism.

Session One covers "The WHY, WHO and WHAT of Profiling," focusing on variations of profiles and clearing up general misconceptions of profiles.

For more information on training for journalists, please visit http://businessjournalism.org.

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Perfecting Personality Profiles with Jacqui Banaszynski - Day 1

  1. 1. Perfecting Personality Profiles Creating compelling business coverage through compelling characters By Jacqui Banaszynski
  2. 2. Memorable characters What makes them so?
  3. 3. People are memorable due to character Deeds or actions Signature traits Words Defining moments … So, too, with businesses
  4. 4. Poll Question #1 What percentage of your business-beat stories are profiles or focus primarily on a central character?
  5. 5. Why profiles? • • • Businesses are PEOPLE Started by, run by, made successful by, sometimes ruined by PEOPLE They affect PEOPLE • • • • Provide or end jobs Create products we consume Provide services we use Drive the economy we all are part of Photo by Flickr user Kurman Communications Inc.
  6. 6. Why profiles? • At heart, any business is just a compilation of the characters • • • Who run it Who make it run Who are affected by it Businesses are about PASSION and PURPOSE. Employees at the opening of an Apple Store. Photo by Flickr user macinate. And those come from PEOPLE.
  7. 7. Poll Question #2 What type of person do you or your editors usually select as profile subjects?
  8. 8. Whom to profile? Obvious subjects: • • Businesspeople or businesses in the news Or in the bull's-eye of a controversy Photo by Flickr user Eran Sandler
  9. 9. General Motors CEO Mary Barra 1st WOMAN TO HEAD A MAJOR AUTO COMPANY Will her character change the culture, character or operation of the company?
  10. 10. Jeff Bezos AMAZON CEO BUYS WASHINGON POST Visionary remaker of retail takes on revered traditional institution Will he stabilize, transform, save, undermine or revolutionize an industry in trouble?
  11. 11. Bernie Madoff
  12. 12. Slam-dunk profile subjects • • • • Firsts or barrier busters Heroes or goats Winners or losers True newsmakers BUT… you don’t have to wait for news to bring fascinating characters to your coverage. Photo by Flickr user Jerry Bowley
  13. 13. Search your community or beat for: • People facing a dramatic challenge or going through a compelling transformation • Turn-around artists • Futurists, visionaries and risk-takers • Entrepreneurs and inventors • Change agents Photo by Flickr user Martin Playing With Pixels and Words
  14. 14. Pope Francis Rocks the Vatican with changes Captivates journalists and the public
  15. 15. Martha Stewart Look for survivors • • • • Characters who defy the odds Whom we love to hate Whom we admire or follow Who teach us something as leaders, consumers, human beings
  16. 16. Profile potential is everywhere • The passionate craftsperson • • The expert who can explain how things work or why they matter The longtime loyal employee who becomes the embodiment of a company Photo by Flickr user Silvia Benedet • The individual who represents a broader trend or illustrates a bigger issue
  17. 17. When the story becomes the business Which becomes an ongoing story as people who buy the product buy into the story (glassybaby)
  18. 18. Or just a great story… The business is really the story behind the business The product and business take on the CHARACTER of the founder
  19. 19. Community characters The local shop owner or repairman or salesperson or butcher, baker, undertaker we all know … but don’t really know (Bob at Dawson’s Shoe Repair in Columbia, Mo.)
  20. 20. Poll Question #3 What are the two most important elements of a good personality profile?
  21. 21. Profiles are not… • Resumes • Chronological life biographies • Lists of employment or accomplishments • Q&A interviews • (Use bio boxes)
  22. 22. 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 DIALOGUE and DYNAMICS that illustrate relationships and interactions
  23. 23. Memorable TRAITS, DEEDS, WORDS
  24. 24. PROFILE TYPES • Not one-size fits all • Must match publication, purpose, audience interest and newsworthiness • Adjust to tone of subject or character, and to your own time, resources, style or strengths
  25. 25. 1. Whole Earth • Cradle-to-current • Obituaries • Major figures or news (Don’t overuse. Subject, space, interest, access often doesn’t warrant or require the whole life story.)
  26. 26. Janet Yellen New Chair of the Federal Reserve • Person known in small circles bursts into national awareness or prominence • Focus on primary aspects of job or role, but fill in the whole-life background • Give the public context
  27. 27. But you can also profile in a ...Paragraph Photo by Flickr user Windell Oskay • Character captured in a phrase or paragraph • Puts personality to names and titles • Selective, relevant detail, description or dialogue • Metaphor helps (if it speaks to understood or shared culture)
  28. 28. "He was Dobie Gillis turned crusty Army scout..." http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_24980304/pioneer-press-senior-editor-mike-bulger-dies-at “He wore all the hats, knew where all the bodies are buried, held the flashlight, led the way, saved our a--es so many times, bemused by us but never critical.”
  29. 29. 2. Newsmaker/Niche • Focus on key aspect connected to news of the moment or situation being explored. • Include only background information relevant to that news, and then with tight selection and compression. Photo by Flickr user Christopher Woo
  30. 30. 3. Micro • Represents or reveals a macro issue or situation • Uses one to tell the story of many • Micro subject must be chosen carefully to be a fair stand-in • If one character doesn’t represent issue fully or fairly, zoom in on three or four Photo by Flickr user Evan Leeson Photo by Flickr user Dave_S
  31. 31. 4. Interview • Often necessary for celebrity or limitedaccess profiles • “My lunch with …” • Done well, puts readers in the room • Relies on effective dialogue and description • Interview questions essential Photo by Flickr user Craig Howell Spice Girl Melanie Brown, spokeswoman for Jenny Craig Photo by Flickr user Eva Rinaldi
  32. 32. Melinda Gates Careful Controlled Guarded Seldom accessible Always on message But… how interesting if…
  33. 33. 5. Negative space • Lack of access or cooperation • Obituaries • Control freaks • Geographically challenged • Subjects buffered by publicists, lawyers, policies • Relies on records, multiple other voices and/or observation Photo by Flickr user Beverly & Pack
  34. 34. “INTO THE WILD” Jon Krakauer never met Chris McCandless, but brought him to life through the stories of those who had.
  35. 35. “Roger and Me” Michael Moore’s quest to interview GM CEO Roger Smith. Interview never happens, but character of place, culture and company is explored.
  36. 36. Tomorrow 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
  37. 37. Homework Make two lists: 1. List the 5 most important and influential people on your beat. If you don’t cover a specific beat, then just list the most important or influential people in your community. 2. Then list the 5 most interesting people you’ve ever met on your beat or in your community. Don’t limit yourself to people who fit the usual definition of “newsworthiness.” Now identify the people who would make a great profile. (Hint: If someone is on both lists, they rise to the top.) Choose one or two, and answer these questions: (1) Why would you want to profile them? (2) What would you most want to find out about them? Please email your answers to: Cassandra.Nicholson@businessjournalism.org by 8 ET tonight, Feb. 5.
  38. 38. Questions? banaszynskij@missouri.edu Twitter: @jacquib Slides, video, handouts, homework at: http://bit.ly/profiles2014 Photo by Flickr user Xurble
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