What makes a good story?
Regardless of who you’re talking to, what makes a good story remains the same:
- It’s interesting and relevant
- It’s remarkable or different
- It’s relatable and easy to understand
To help you write a strong story, read our guidance.
Selling your story: what do you need?
A real-life story: Your work, or the issue you’re trying to bring attention to, will be more engaging if you use the story of an individual or group to sell it.
Facts and figures: You should include any compelling facts and figures that help support the issue you’re raising. For example, the percentage of people affected by an issue locally.
An expert view: Including the opinions of local experts will help strengthen your story. For example, the view of a local doctor, councillor or community leader on the findings you’re publishing.
An event: If you’re holding an event to find out more about an issue or to launch a piece of work, include details to encourage people to attend.
What do journalists want?
Human interest: Stories about people in their communities who their audiences will relate to and care about.
Usable content: Clear copy, strong pictures, powerful quotes and case studies willing to share their experiences – anything that makes it easier for journalists to do their job.
Videos: You could also think about content for the paper’s social media channels, such as well-produced videos.
How to reach journalists?
Increasingly you can contact journalists through social media, although phone and email are still the best way to get in touch. You should be able to find this information on your local paper's website. If you are contacting someone through social media, make sure they're using their accounts for professional purposes.
Things to remember
- Always think like a reader. Would you, your friends or your family be interested in this story?
- Know your media. What stories do local journalists usually cover and who writes about health and social care in your area?
- Pick the right time to ring journalists. Don’t ring them close to deadlines.
- You don’t always need a formal press release. If you have a good relationship with a local journalist, an email with your key messages might be enough to interest them in the story.
- If a journalist isn’t interested, ask them why; it’s useful to know for next time you want to pitch a story.
What should you include in your press release?
For immediate release: (add time, date and location)
Use this if you want the media to publish your story as soon as they receive it.
Embargoed until (add time, date and location)
Use this if you want to give journalists time to prepare the story or want to ensure they don’t use your press release until a specified date.
Start with a snappy, attention grabbing headline, but don’t try too hard. Keep it simple.
Bullet points of key information
After your headline summarise your main message, key findings and relevant statistics in short bullet points to get the journalist’s attention.
This is where you outline your story answering any reader’s key questions: who, what, when, where and why?
Then include a strong quote from someone relevant to the story. This might be from a case study or the opinion of a local expert.
If you have any extra information, such as a link to find out more online, include this at the end of your press release.
Always use ‘ends’ to mark where the press release stops and the ‘notes for editors’ begin.
Notes for editors
In this section you should provide any additional background information. Include a short description of your organisation, what you do, and any further details about the project. You can also include any other facts and figures relevant to your story.
If you have pictures, photo opportunities, social media content, interviewees or anything else to offer, outline this under the notes for editors.
Make it clear who journalists can contact for more information. Also make sure you include details for when you are out of the office. This can make the difference between a story being covered or not.
Should a release for broadcast media be different?
If you are trying to get TV or radio coverage, you can structure your press release slightly differently to be helpful. After your headline and bullets of key information, include a section called Broadcast opportunities. In this section, include the following information:
- Date – make clear if you can provide pre-recorded interview or filming opportunities in advance of any embargo date.
- Interviews – list the key people you have available for interview. For example, your CEO, a patient and a health expert.
- Filming locations – make clear the opportunities you have available. For example, do you have an event, can they film at a service or in a location which will help communicate your story.
Before you hit 'send'
- Get somebody else to read through your press release to make sure it flows and to help spot typos.
- Cut out unnecessary words and keep your sentences short.
- Make sure you’ve included important details about your case studies, such as their full name and where they’re from.
- Send your press release and any other information in the body of your email, not as an attachment.