Finding the Right Angle – How to focus the story for the media and the audience

Posted by Shelley Grell on January 20th, 2010.

You’ve all heard it discussed before. What’s the angle? What makes your story unique? The angle is the lifeblood of every good journalist, and the ability to present the most intriguing facet of a given situation is what earns loyalty from a publication’s readers. In this article, we’ll take a look at angles and how to develop the most appropriate one for your story.

Angle is about audience

To develop a worthwhile angle, you must put yourself in the shoes of the target audience. Who are they? What problems do they face? Frame the presentation of the story in terms of a response to those questions.

In the case of a media release the first audience is the publication itself. What do they care about? They care about newsworthy, informative and factually correct stories that their readers will be interested in. If you are hoping to get media coverage for a story, you must answer the question, “Why is this story interesting to the readers?”

A story that takes the perspective of the reader will be far easier to sell to the media than one that takes the perspective of the company.

One of our clients, Bluewater Systems, is a provider of advanced embedded electronics solutions. If we’re proposing an article for a technical publication, we’ll focus on the technical angle. When we pitch stories about them to the mass media, though, we don’t mention bits or bytes; we talk about how a company like Bluewater can help entrepreneurs turn a vision into reality. With this angle, the story becomes relevant to everyone who has ever had a brilliant idea for a product.

Which brings us to another point: the angle is entirely subjective, and changes depending on the audience.

Angle is about results

It may sound cheeky, but a useful technique for figuring out the best angle is to repeatedly ask yourself, “So what?” You can also phrase it, “Why will this audience care?” You’ve added six widgets or switched technology from Acme to Megamart—what does that mean to the publication, the reader or the customer?

When we wrote the release about a Syft Technologies Voice100™ being installed at Christchurch Hospital, we asked ourselves those questions. Why would people care that a machine has been put in a room? We realised that the story isn’t about the technology, it’s about what that technology can do. The result was an angle that everyone cares about: saving lives.

Angle is about attention

The angle’s home is in the headline. The two-and-a-half seconds it takes people to read the headline is how long they will spend deciding whether the story is worth their attention. This handful of words is where the essential message gets conveyed, and the equation is simple: if people care about the angle, they’ll read the story. If they don’t, they won’t.

Remembering that your first audience is the publication itself, the equation becomes: if they think their readers will care about the angle, they’ll print the story. If they don’t, they won’t.

The rest of the text is there to back up the initial point. Elaborate on why this topic is even more significant than people think. Explain how your product or service solves the problem better than anyone else’s. And, towards the bottom, briefly describe the technology behind it.

It can be difficult to focus on the angle of a story. When you work closely with a technology, it becomes near and dear, and there’s a temptation to think everyone cares as much as you do about each wire and solenoid. If you can step back and put yourself in the reader’s shoes, though, you’ll be a lot more likely to achieve positive media coverage. With the right angle, people will understand why they should care.

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