Storytelling Tip: Focus on a Single Idea


Storytelling Tip: Focus on a Single Idea
Today’s tip from JerryBrownPR’s Tips for Telling Your Story on the Experience Pros Radio Show
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By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Counsel

Storytelling Tip: Focus on a Single IdeaFocus your story around a single topic, preferably one you can put into a single sentence.

In school, we were taught our paragraphs should have a topic sentence summarizing the main thought of that paragraph.

I encourage you to take it a step further. Organize your story around a single topic sentence as well.

As a young journalist, I was taught to start my stories with a single sentence — the lead — that told the reader what the story was about. And then I was supposed to make everything else explain or elaborate on my lead. Parts of the story that didn’t explain my lead were strong candidates for being edited out.

Focusing on a single topic is a good storytelling formula because it forces you to be clear about what you have to say.

What if you have five tips about how to [fill in the blank]? Don’t you have five things to talk about in that case? Yes, you do. But they all focus on the single topic of how to do whatever goes into your fill-in-the-blank space. And each of those tips will focus on its own single idea.

Movies and novels often have multiple subplots. It can be part of what makes them interesting.

Doesn’t that violate my single-topic rule? Yes. And no. You’re going to spend 90 minutes or longer watching a movie and more time than that reading most novels. All those subplots help keep you interested along the way. But those subplots usually flesh out the main plot of the story in some way. And most of those movies and novels can generally be boiled down to a single topic that serves as the unifying thread of the story.

If your audience will be spending 90 minutes or longer on your story, you may need a subplot or two as well. But in the business world we’re often lucky to get 90 seconds of their time. So, stay focused on a single thought.

Put what you want to tell us into a single sentence — your lead. And then use the rest of what you have to say explaining or elaborating on your lead.


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 |

Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 11:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros Radio Show on KLZ 560AM in Denver or at on the Internet. Missed it on the air? Listen to the archived tips.

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