Telling Your Story: Answer the Right Questions


Telling Your Story: Answer the Right Questions

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Counsel

Telling Your Story: Answer the Right QuestionsGood storytelling often is about answering the right questions — the ones your audience will ask on their own and the ones you want them to ask.

As I mentioned in my last post, during the 20 years when I was committing journalism we were told our stories should cover the five W’s — who, what, where, when and why.

We often skipped why because we didn’t know the answer and didn’t have time to find out before deadline. So, we were really answering four questions: Who, what, where and when. Our job was to answer those questions because they’re typically the questions all of us about any story. Pretty basic storytelling. Informative. But generally not persuasive. And not intended to be.

Of course, our stories had to be interesting. The word we used was “newsworthy.” Otherwise, no editor would agree to print them or put them on the air.

So, what do you do if your story’s not “newsworthy” but it’s important to you that the rest of us pay attention to what you’re saying?

One way to do it is to take the questions journalists routinely answer a step deeper in a way that makes the answers more interesting to your audience.

Here’s how I suggest doing that:

  • Don’t just tell me who. Tell me how your story affects me. Everybody’s favorite subject is me. So, telling me how your story affects me means I’m more likely to be interested in what you have to say.
  • Don’t just tell me what. Tell me why I should care, the so what of your story. I talked about this in my last post.
  • Don’t just tell me where. Localize your story to tell me how it applies to the geographic area of our audience — or an interest they share.
  • Don’t just tell me when. Tell me how.
  • Don’t skip telling me why the way the journalists sometimes are forced to do because of deadlines.

Asking this second layer of questions automatically takes your audience deeper into your story. And if you use them to lead the rest of us to answers to the questions you want us to ask, then you have a good chance of persuading us to do or believe what you want us to do or believe.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?


Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist. He specializes in helping clients develop the content they need to tell their stories. He also helps them develop strategies for getting their stories heard, understood and remembered. And he provides media training and presentation coaching for clients who need to tell their stories to reporters or in front of an audience. 303-594-8016 |

1 Comment
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