Questions for story development: Specificity helps identify stories

Estimated read time: 2 minutes

Asking yourself – or somebody else – a specific question can help you come up with a story idea. Stories help us tell organizations’ and brands’ stories. Stories, in turn, help us connect with people who care about what we do and can increase customer bases.

Why do I need a story in the first place?

More and more companies are publishing their own content through their websites, social media and other channels. And while this can help companies and organizations connect with customers and advocates, it’s also different from a few years ago when journalists were about the only group of professionals sharing stories with the public in this manner.

20130627-170006.jpgToday, most organizations or businesses have a website. Some use it as a static information portal: Here are directions. Here’s our phone number. Some use it to share stories. The blue graphic shows four common set-ups.

Stories work because people can relate to them and stories are much easier to remember than data. (Though data certainly can help a good story be great if used to tell the story.)

Whether you are in marketing, sales, IT or are one of your company’s subject matter experts, chances are you will probably run across stories in your daily work that would help share your organization’s story publicly.

But how do you spot those stories?

Asking the right questions to get your story started

Journalists come up with stories all the time. Sometimes they run across them almost by mistake. They pay attention as they are going through their daily lives.

“I wonder what’s going on over there. Let me go find out …”
“Why are people doing this?”

For example.

Sometimes they happen because an editor asked a very specific question:

“I saw a picture of public official A and it looks like he lost a lot of weight. I wonder if he’d let us do a story on his success.”


“Anything newsworthy listed in the police log today?”

Specificity can help you find stories, even if you aren’t a journalist but your organization has started to share its authentic success stories.

Some questions to consider to help spot stories:

  • What happened today that stood out to me?
  • What surprised me today?
  • What will I share with a friend or significant other tonight?
  • Of all the things that happened today which one made the biggest impact on my organization?
  • What was on my team’s agenda today?
  • What’s the most important and urgent project right now?

Some of the answers to these probably couldn’t be published. The answers might include confidential information. And that’s OK. You don’t have to share those pieces. Even journalists don’t report everything they run across. But it’s a starting point to come up with stories that an organization might consider sharing publicly through its website, social channels and even pitch to relevant media companies for further coverage.