News writing is one of the seven writing styles that all nonprofit communicators should master. It’s often what’s involved when you want to get news coverage.
Still, in the world of nonprofit comms superlatives, newswriting wins for the “Writing Style Used Most Often When It Shouldn’t Be.”
Too often, nonprofits write about their issues, programs, and events in a straight news style when they would be better served by using storytelling, donor-centered copywriting, or lifestyle writing.
But, of course, there are plenty of times when you do need the journalistic newswriting approach. Press releases, some e-news content, and much of your own website content are some examples.
If you are unfamiliar with this style of writing, here are a few quick pointers for you . . .
Remember the 5Ws and H.
Who, what, when, where, why and how. You need to provide the basic information right up front.
Don’t bury the lead.
The lead (sometimes spelled lede) is one or two sentences that contain the most important information in your story. The lead is typically in the first paragraph. If someone is only going to read one or two sentences, what is it that you want them to remember? This goes right at the top, not buried somewhere in paragraph two or three, or even worse at the very end. You are NOT building to an awesome conclusion in newswriting. Get right to the point at the beginning.
Use the inverted pyramid.
This style of writing puts the key details and most important or interesting points at the top (again, not burying the lead), followed by additional details in order of importance, followed by lesser details, background, and history. Why is the triangle inverted? If you only have so much space in a newspaper column, you can cut off the lower third of the triangle (or the article) and not lose really important content (you are just cutting off that lower tip).
While you don’t have to worry about column inches with online writing, you do need to worry about keeping your reader’s attention, and the inverted pyramid works for that too.
Vary your lead with care.
Sometimes you can draw readers in more quickly with a different kind of lead, such as using an anecdote, a quote or a quirky detail. But then you need to get back to the key details.
Remember, this is just one of the seven styles of writing we recommend. It’s not perfect for everything you write as a nonprofit communicator, but it’s definitely one to master!
See our blog section on Nonprofit PR for more tips on newswriting and working with the media.