3 reasons list stories work

It’s a familiar format. It’s familiar, because it’s effective. Here’s why and how you should compose a list of key points to deliver your message.


Although there are critics of list stories—those in which the author provides a list of tips on achieving a particular task, etc.—the format is extremely valuable for PR professionals, and we should be taking advantage of them.

Resources at print publications are continuing to dwindle, which means that editors today often turn to industry thought leaders to develop content.

They’re much more likely to accept something brief and to the point, like a numbered tip article, than a lengthy essay about a topic—and readers are much more likely to read it.

As you think about how to get your clients’ names and companies into the discussion, consider structuring the clients’ insights into sound bites so they can be published as a list article.

Here are three key reasons why this format works:

1. Social media has changed our collective attention span.

Neil Vidyarthi of SocialTimes posted an infographic that shows how social media, in the span of a decade, has diminished our attention span from 12 minutes to five minutes. This means you have a lot less time to make your point. Plus, once your article publishes, it will probably receive a lot of traffic through social media sharing, so you should offer the brevity that online readers expect.

2. You can be bold and easily digestible so your message sticks with readers.

Your ultimate point is usually just one sentence (or one sentence per point if you have multiple elements in your article). Including a paragraph or two before your point just makes it hard to find and, thus, hard to remember. Using lists doesn’t mean you can’t expand on your point after the fact (see what I’m doing here?), but at least you know that readers will retain your overriding message.

3. Your content stays relevant longer.

As I mentioned, no one is saying in-depth articles are dead, but they often analyze current events or depend on them to make their point. When you list your points, they’re not filled with bells and whistles—they’re straightforward assertions.

When crafting a contributed article for your clients, think about the article’s five or 10 main messages. If it takes some time to find and understand them, you might want to consider moving to a list format.

Lydia Howard is an account manager for Vantage Communications, a boutique technology firm. Send her an email at lhoward@pr-vantage.com, or follow her on Twitter @lydhow.

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