Going Back to School on Storytelling

Going Back to School on Storytelling

It’s back to school season! And, recently I found myself going back to school of sorts when I stumbled upon some old public relations textbooks. Thumbing through them, I thought—“Geez, if I wrote like this, readers would fall asleep halfway through the lede!”

Much has changed since I went to school: the media landscape has widened and shifted; yet while the number of outlets seem to multiply at an exponential rate, the number of top-tier outlets remains the same. Instead, they’re just more people and organizations clambering for coverage in them.

And audiences today are able to consume news at any moment in time—but for shorter spurts. They’re less likely to read long features. Stories tend to be under 700 words and are simplistic and pithy.

Yet even with these changes, the core job of a public relations professional has stayed the same.

We are storytellers.

But the way we tell stories to grab the attention of news generators and consumers is different.

So, in the spirit of the back-to-school season, I’m going back to school on how to hook media and their audiences—and thought you’d like to tag along.

First things first, though. There has and always will be only two main ways to grab attention: 1) Make a story either with fresh content, research, op-eds, events, or content marketing/creation; or 2) follow a story by offering expertise or a different angle to a news event.

Without doing this, your hopes of being written or talked about is just that—hopes.

With this in mind, here are 9 ways to frame stories so that they grab attention of the media and their audiences:

  1. Be useful. Readers today gravitate to stories that promise them something that’s easy to read and simple to do.
  2. Be immediate. Words like daily, now, today, immediately get reads.
  3. Tell secrets. Words like secrets, habits, tricks, tips, and characteristics catch people’s eyes.
  4. Pique curiosity. Keep them guessing in the headline.
  5. Leverage your experience. Promote the information you have that audiences can’t find elsewhere.
  6. Name drop. Use big names seen in the top headlines.
  7. Cite weird numbers. Think 35, 19, 11. These tend to get clicks.
  8. Talk big price tags. Big dollar amounts also pique interest.
  9. Be universal. Share lessons that can benefit anyone.

The media will also want to know what value your story will have for their audiences. So when thinking of your story, ask yourself why people should care and what makes it unique or new. Then leverage that and share your story!


Image credit: ValeriaMoschet

Filed As:  PR, sharing your story

About Whitney Heins

Whitney is the public relations director at WI. She started her career in communications as a TV news anchor/reporter in Virginia and Tennessee before switching to public relations. Whitney earned her bachelors in government at Georgetown University, and masters in PR from the University of Tennessee. She enjoys spending time with her family in Knoxville, TN, and running competitively.

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