Writer’s Workshop

Reporting, Writing and the Craft of Storytelling

Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022 • 12:30 - 4:30 p.m. CT • Soho House, Chicago

Writing skills have never been more important. Of course, we said that last year, the year before, and many times before that.

And we’ll keep saying it. Whether you’re writing speeches or emails, a press release or a social media post, video scripts or newsletters, everything starts with words. Your audiences are being flooded with messages from all sides. Good writing is the key to breaking through all that clutter.

If you’re working in communications today, your plate (and inbox) is constantly full. Your job is to engage internal and external audiences that are dispersed, distracted and worn out by over two years of pandemic, social strife and economic upheaval. You must deliver timely news, compelling features and thought leadership, all while demonstrating your organization’s embrace of diversity and commitment to a healthier planet.

Come to our LIVE (yes, LIVE and in person) workshop at Chicago’s Soho House  for an afternoon of learning and doing, followed by Ragan Consulting Group’s Happy Hour! Did we mention this was in person?

And bring your laptop or tablet. You’ll need it at this workshop as your instructors, Ragan Consulting Group’s Jim Ylisela and Tom Corfman, show you how to:

  • Be a better reporter inside your organization.
  • Fine-tune your interviewing skills.
  • Recognize and write news, in a timely fashion
  • Find and craft good feature stories, including profiles.
  • Inject color, tension and emotion into your stories.
  • Write captivating headlines and teasers that get people to read.


12:30 to 12:45 p.m.
Arrive at Soho House, meet your colleagues and get comfy
12:45 p.m. to 1:15 p.m.
How to be a good reporter in your own organization

The foundation for powerful writing is solid reporting, yet your writing falters when you lack facts and insights from your sources. Sometimes, you just need to share a telling example that illustrates a trend or a bit of color that captures the emotion of a situation. In this session, you’ll learn:

  • How to change your approach to news hunting and gathering
  • How to develop and nurture sources inside your organization
  • The two Ps of interviewing: Preparation and Persistence


What most organization stories lack

You’ll get our checklist – a handy guide to all the attributes of good storytelling that often never make it into corporate copy, including:

  • Humans. Does your story offer proof of life?
  • Tension. Stories are about humans trying to do something or get somewhere, and overcoming whatever gets in their way.
  • Emotion. Who cares about this story? Do the people in it care? Will the audience care? Do YOU care? To answer those questions, you must find the emotional center of the story.
1:15 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.
How to write a good profile

You encounter many interesting people whose stories  should be told. Your co-workers, customers and the public want to hear about them. People inside and outside your organization are curious about your leaders. Yet profile-writing is the most neglected area of corporate communications. In this session, you’ll learn:

  • The guiding rule: Why would someone want to know about this person?
  • The types of questions and when to use them
  • How to structure a profile from beginning to end
  • How to get a good quote from your subject – and others

Exercise: Pair up and interview another workshop participant as if you are writing a profile about them. Take notes! You’ll use this information later.

2:15 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
2:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Use your powers of observation

This session begins with a primer on the elements of a good story: Humans, emotion, movement, voice and color. Then you’ll put those lessons to work with a writing exercise:

  • In a paragraph, describe a process, person, place or thing from work
  • Take us somewhere

Exercise: Your task is to capture the relevant details and choose the right words. Then we’ll ask for volunteers to read their writing samples for discussion.

3 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.
Get the big stuff right

Writing your best story won’t matter if you don’t get your audience to click through and get started. There are three ways to make that happen: a compelling, relevant image to make us pause; a captivating headline and teaser to tell us why the story is worth our time; and an energetic lede to pull us into the story and send us on our way. In this session, we’ll show you how to:

  • Write a good headline and teaser that:
    • Attracts the attention of readers with benefit words and clever choices
    • Tells readers enough about the story to compel them to click through and learn more
  • Write a lede that:
    • Tells us the news we need in the first paragraph
    • Draws us in with a colorful, relevant anecdote.

Exercise: Fashion a lede from a scrambled story.

Exercise: Working in groups, write eye-catching headlines and teasers for well-constructed stories.

3:45 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Writing profile headlines and ledes

We’ll wind down our workshop  by going back to your profile subjects you interviewed. You’ll write a headline or lede (or both) for a profile about the person you interviewed. It’s OK if you need to check back with your subject to confirm facts, but be sure to spend your time on writing, not reporting.

4:30 p.m.
Cocktails and conversation

You’ve worked hard and are ready for a break. Let’s keep the discussion going over festive beverages! We’ll take your questions and then continue the conversation at a reception we are hosting.


Jim Ylisela

Co-Founder and Senior PartnerRagan Consulting Group

Jim Ylisela is Co-founder and Senior Partner of Ragan Consulting Group. He is an award-winning veteran Chicago journalist and a former publisher of Ragan.com. He brings more than 30 years of experience in writing, editing, communications research and consulting. Ylisela has designed and organized newsrooms for many companies and organizations, including Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, where he served as a faculty member and co-director of Medill News Service from 1988 to 2001. He works with communicators to create brand journalism news sites, organize and train writers and editors and restore reporting (and creative storytelling) to internal and external communications.

Tom Corfman

Senior Consultant, ESG ExpertRagan Consulting Group

Tom Corfman is a senior consultant with 30+ years of experience in journalism, media relations and the law. He began his career as a civil rights litigator and criminal defense lawyer specializing in white-collar cases. He then became managing editor at The Chicago Reporter, an investigative monthly on race and poverty. Later, he was a reporter and editor at the Chicago Tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business, where he wrote or edited many high-pressure investigative stories on defense contractors, pharmaceutical executives, real estate developers and Medicaid providers. Before joining RCG in 2021, he served for four years as director of communications for Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas.

Venue Image
Soho House, Chicago
113-125 N Green St,
Chicago, IL 60607

Top reasons to attend this workshop

  • You'll listen to and interact with the nation’s top writing experts.
  • You’ll receive all presentations and handouts
  • You’re guaranteed extensive, how-to instruction that you can use immediately
Register now for Writer’s Workshop:

Regular Rates
Registration $599
Ragan Insider Registration $499
Nonprofit Registration $549

Phone registrations and group pricing: For group orders please contact our customer service team at 800-878-5331 or cservice@ragan.com


For questions related to event registrations, please contact:

Shallon Blackburn
Customer Service & Sales Manager

If you’re interested in sponsoring this event, please contact:

Hannah Lavelle

For information on programming and speakers please contact:

Justin Joffe



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