As a business writer, I am often called upon to write press releases for clients who are doing important work in the sustainability realm. To improve the chances of getting a piece published, I strive to hand editors a finished story rather than a fact pack.
A client recently confided in me that she struggles with writing and marvels at my ability.
“The hardest part for me is getting started,” she said. “How do you get started on a new assignment?”
The short answer is that I look for news.
Most editors that I work with want me to get to the point as soon as possible in a story. Here’s the problem: my customers typically want free press about an event or accomplishment that isn’t particularly compelling. The editor, on the other hand, wants something newsworthy. My challenge is to scour through several pages of notes and quotes to find the most intriguing bit of content available and then build a story around it.
In keeping with that, the most compelling aspect of a story should precede the boring stuff. The goal is to impart the “news” while holding the reader’s attention long enough to interject the verbiage that the customer is paying me to publicized.
Once I identify the core story, I spend some time composing a powerful first sentence. The quickest way to see what I mean is to read a few first sentences of front-page stories in The Washington Post or New York Times.
Sometimes an editor will pick up the news in a piece and cut out the hidden agenda that I was paid to promote. bummer!
But when I’m at my best, an editor will publish one of my press releases as it was written and the customer will think me a genius, which is, of course, newsworthy!