I once received an assignment to rescue a doomed newsletter for companies providing towing services to a motor club’s members. The motor club didn’t understand why it was failing. So we conducted a random survey of towing operators.

What we heard was enlightening.  “I don’t read that rag. It’s nothing but PR for your company and junk about which executive is getting promoted.” And when we asked them what they’d rather read? “Look, I’m trying to make a buck. Tell me how I can do a better job of running my business.”

The motor club fell into the trap of talking to themselves. Instead of sharing information their audience would find useful, they kept shoveling out the company line and including what the executives found interesting. They weren’t deliberately trying to exclude readers – it just never occurred to them that the outside world wasn’t interested.

I took the newsletter in a new direction. Instead of talking about the motor club, we focused on successful ways towing companies were addressing personnel, equipment, marketing, and other issues. Instead of putting the motor club at the center, we put the readers there. We convinced the executives to stop talking to themselves, and a publication that was once at death’s door became healthy enough to attract paid advertising.