Even in our high-tech, multi-platform, integrated communications world, the old rules of storytelling still apply. Anybody who ever took a journalism class knows about the 5 Ws of writing a news story, but for those who didn’t, here’s a quick rundown of the questions you should answer in every piece of company communications.
- Who is your story about? Offer some background, and relate it to the content at hand.
- Who will be affected by the news? A policy change may have an impact on some employees but not others; a company expansion can be good for members of the surrounding community.
- Who are you trying to reach? An audience made up of experts will probably appreciate industry jargon; the general public won’t.
- What do you want your audience to know? Keep it simple and straightforward. Gushing and overselling does not convince a reader that the news is more wonderful than it actually is.
- What has happened and what will happen next? Stick to the facts, and spell them out clearly. Confusion is never a good reaction.
- When did your story happen or when will your event take place? A simple date will do, but you’d be surprised how often this information gets left out. You may take for granted that everyone in your industry knows the date of the big trade show, and you may be right. But it never hurts to include the fact anyway.
- Where did your story take place?
- Where will the event you are promoting take place?
- Where is your profile subject from and where are they now? Sometimes a city or state name is sufficient, but often adding more detail about the look, atmosphere, or history of a place can pull the reader into the story.
- Why is this happening? This is the big question. Tell a group of hospital employees that you are instituting a policy change that requires them to file more paperwork and many will react with resentment. Tell them how the policy change improves patient care or contributes to the company’s overall success and that attitude could soften.
- Why did they do that? Describe the motivation for a profile subject’s actions. Explain the problem that led to a new work process.
Answering each of these questions gives your audience context to understand what you are telling them. If you answer the questions, then they won’t have to.