Premise Step One: Create the Concept

Great ideas are unique. There’s no formula for innovative ideas, and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is selling the slickest of snake oil.

That said, a great premise always has certain elements in common. It took me many years to understand that, beyond all the tactics, it’s the premise of the message that matters first and foremost.

These days, they come naturally to me once I understand the market and the audience. The same will happen to you the more you work at it.

But first, let’s understand the essential elements.

1. Be unpredictable

The first thing you absolutely must have is attention. Without initial attention, nothing else you’ve done matters.

And nothing kills attention faster than if your prospective reader, listener, or viewer thinks they already know where you’re going. Beyond curiosity, a great premise delivers an unpredictable and unexpected element that makes it irresistible.

It all comes back to knowing at an intimate level who you’re talking to and what are they used to seeing in the market. What messages are they getting from your competition? This is what you must use as the benchmark to create your own unique and unexpected angle that forms the foundation of your premise.

Think back on the classic Schlitz story from earlier. It wasn’t that clean-filtered water was unique in the industry. It was that the marketplace wasn’t expecting to hear that particular story.

In this day and age, you might have to dig deeper for a new and unexpected message that startles or downright fascinates people. A creative imagination combined with solid research skills it helps you see the nugget of gold no one else sees.

Part of why people tune things out is a lack of novelty, which makes even previously desirable subject matter mundane. So taking an approach that differs from the crowd can help you stand out, and that’s why unpredictability is crucial for a strong premise.

Beyond attention, credibility is also critical to a great premise. And when you take the same old tired approach as everyone in your niche or industry, you come across as manufactured and insincere.

Just remember as a final point, things change. What was once unpredictable can become not only predictable but trite. This is why being able to come up with a fresh premise is a valuable skill for anyone who writes copy or markets anything.