Doctor SpinCreativityStorytelling & WritingThe Problem-Agitate-Solve (PAS) Formula for PR Writers

The Problem-Agitate-Solve (PAS) Formula for PR Writers

Saving the solution for the end is fine, adding filler content isn't.

PAS in PR writing is a double-edged sword.

We all hate reading unnecessary text to get to whatever solution we’re looking for. “Get to the point already,” we think to ourselves. Wading waist-deep through anecdotes, analogies, context, and disclaimers is tiring.

Getting to the point sometimes seems to be a lost art.

It’s the PAS-ification of content marketing, it seems. PAS is a widely popular acronym for writing content — Pain-Agitate-Solve. We make a point of delaying the solution to ensure reader engagement. According to both theory and online analytics, this seems to be the right path to take.

The Problem-Agitate-Solve Formula

  • Problem: Outline your reader’s pain point.
  • Agitate: Amplify and drive home the pain point.
  • Solve: Offer an actionable solution.

The first third of the content connects via a shared pain point. The second third of the content amplifies these mutual frustrations. And the last third offers the solution.

Still, P-A-S can get old real quick.

“Getting to point” quickly isn’t without its own set of drawbacks, either. I’ve collaborated with many engineers throughout my PR career, and they typically get straight to the real solution in their writing. To present the solution straight-up, without any fuss whatsoever, can make for rather dull reading, too.

Readers never consciously ask for it, but they need stories, analogies, context, and disclaimers.

PAS is a powerful tool but beware of adding unnecessary filler content.

For me, this is a helpful rule of thumb:

If it’s tedious to write, it’s tedious to read.

The straightforward approach to delaying premature solutions is to put more energy into the first two-thirds of your written content.

Think about it: The solution part could be trite and stale, but it still carries lots of value by being the actual answer to someone’s question. The initial parts of your content have no such value and, therefore, they need the most of your attention.

Don’t just race through the PA part if you’re using PAS. Put your heart and soul into making these passages worthy of your reader’s attention.

Make these parts fun to read by making them fun to write.

Cover photo by Jerry Silfwer (Prints/Instagram)


Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, aka Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.
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