As marketers, we love a good narrative story or infographic. But sometimes your content or medium calls for a straightforward news article. News stories are an appropriate format for basic information, such as for an executive newsletter or a press release. If you didn’t go to journalism school, here’s your primer on how to write one.
1. Use the inverted pyramid method.
Feature stories tend to have more flowery introductions and follow a theme, but news stories get straight to the facts. The idea is to put the most important information at the top and your least important information at the bottom, like an inverted pyramid.
Writing this way is good for a few reasons. It’s long been particularly important in the world of printed newspapers to save time on editing. Depending on how much room there was for an article after ads were placed, editors would just chop the article from the bottom to fit. Today, the format remains useful as a lot of readers are still conditioned to read this way and, frankly, don’t have the attention spans to read all the way to the end.
2. Write a clear, strong, complete lead.
In typical news stories, your first paragraph — which is sometimes only one sentence — is your lead. It should convey your who, what, when, where, why and even how, if you can make it fit. The more of these details you can comfortably get into the first paragraph, the better. Don’t worry about being clever or cute. Simply get the information out.
3. Don’t forget supporting facts and statistics.
This is where the bulk of your writing will take place. This is really where you’ll make the “why” shine. Is there historical context that would help readers understand the reason your organization is doing what it’s doing? Are there statistics that help explain why you’ve released a new product or service? Or why you’ve launched an initiative?
4. Include commentary.
News stories should be informative and straightforward, but that doesn’t mean they have to be boring. One way to add interest is by including quotes from a variety of sources. Ideally, you’ll include quotes from folks both inside and outside your organization (think: a customer or patient plus a subject matter expert). Ask these folks to comment on the initiative you’re reporting on and what it means to them, customers, the community at large, etc. Here’s some advice on conducting more effective interviews.
5. Consider length.
We always advise that you make stories as long as necessary to be effective. But in general, when writing on behalf of your organization, shorter is better. If it’s getting long and you can’t seem to decide what to cut, ask yourself if maybe this is two separate news stories. For news releases, keep it to one to two pages or about 300 to 500 words max. Reporters are busy. They need all the news — and fast.
News story success checklist
What does it take to write a successful news story about your organization? Be sure to do these things:
- Arrange your article so the most important information is at the top.
- Include the who, what, when, where and why in the first paragraph.
- Research supporting facts and statistics.
- Include quotes for color.
- Edit out unnecessary details.
- Trim to 300–500 words max.