How do I find real stories in PR material?

Mary Ann Hogan
Chips Quinn Writing Coach

Dear Coach,

I’m doing a story on a local organization that helps people get through grief of losing a loved one. But it’s already starting to sound like a Oh-isn’t-this-organization-wonderful stories. What can I do to make it a news story? — Miss Wonderful

Dear Wonderful,

You’re right. You don’t want a gee-isn’t-this-group-great story. That’s not a story. That’s a public relations piece.

The agency isn’t your story. It merely opens the door to a story.

After reporting what the group is and what it does, ask your contacts to help you find somebody who has an interesting story to tell about mourning and loss. Then tell the person’s story. Ask about the person being mourned. Be a listener when you interview, and you will get some moving material. Remember to include the context that we all mourn at some point in our lives.

High in the story — third paragraph or so — weave in information about the organization.

You could put details about the group in an accompanying shaded data box. That would help free you up to write the real story.


Mary Ann Hogan’s Ask The Coach columns, first written for the Chips Quinn Scholars program, are republished with permission from the Freedom Forum Institute, 2019.

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