Which headline is more compelling?
“Woman in bar assaulted by girlfriend after she waves to man”
“Woman in bar in sumo-wrestler suit assaulted by girlfriend after she waves to man dressed as Snickers bar”
I’ll take the Snickers bar every time.
Effective reporting is about finding the details that make your story pop. Jim Ylisela, president and co-owner of Duff Media Partners, Inc. and speaker at Ragan’s Corporate Writers and Editors Conference, outlines the nine details effective reporters should use to create powerful stories.
1. Be specific.
People often get caught up in talking about the “grand vision” for a brand or company. It’s obscure and not relatable. It doesn’t evoke emotion. Ask questions to discover specific details about, say, the company’s five-year plan and what it means to employees and the external audience.
2. Find the people.
Ylisela said he always makes friends with secretaries because “they know where the bodies are buried.” He doesn’t suggest you play detective, but there’s something to be said for knowing the people who have the inside scoop on company happenings.
3. Be clear.
Ah, jargon. It’s the bane of every corporate communicator’s existence. Avoid it like the plague.
4. Recognize that it’s a three-way conversation.
Remember that reporting is not simply you relaying a message to your audience. It’s a conversation. Use a conversational tone. Your message reaches your audience, may come back to you, and then will—hopefully—be disseminated via social media or another avenue.
5. Know the difference between “down and dirty” and “deep dive” stories
Down and dirty: These are the quick stories you should focus on getting out quickly, like timely news, alerts, and calls to action. Don’t spend unnecessary time crafting these pieces.
Deeper dives: These stories have more context and background—more storytelling, humans and channels. These are the stories to spend more time on.
6. Know the history.
Before you conduct an interview, do your homework. Research your topic. Google is a wonderful tool.
7. Ask the right questions.
While it’s good to prepare questions, you can’t be ruled by them. Follow someone down a blind alley or path. The tangent might be the story.
8. Get past the smarmy stuff.
It’s obvious when a story is trying to emphasize the glory of a company or CEO. Get the sales guy to talk about failures and successes. Work through platitudes. Find the stories and make connections.
9. Embrace the numbers.
Believe it or not, numbers can be your friends. Find drama and urgency behind the numbers. How do they affect real people?