Move from event to impact

Focus news stories on MOI

Screenwriter Nora Ephron long remembered the first day of her high school journalism class.

Move from event to impact

Main event Don’t tell me about your event. Tell me what I’ll be able to do at your event. Image by rawpixel

Ephron’s teacher announced the first assignment: to write the lead for a story to appear in the student newspaper. He told them the facts:

“Kenneth L. Peters, the principal of Beverly Hills High School, announced today that the entire high school faculty will travel to Sacramento next Thursday for a colloquium in new teaching methods. Among the speakers will be anthropologist Margaret Mead, college president Dr. Robert Maynard Hutchins, and California governor Edmund ‘Pat’ Brown.”

Ephron and the other budding journalists condensed the who, what, when, where and why of the story into a single sentence: “Governor Pat Brown, Margaret Mead, and Robert Maynard Hutchins will address the Beverly Hills High School faculty Thursday in Sacramento …”

The teacher reviewed the leads, then paused for a moment.

“The lead for this story,” he said, “is ‘There will be no school next Thursday.’”

Not ‘just the facts, ma’am’

What’s the point of your news story? It’s probably not really the five W’s and the H. Instead of focusing on the event, focus in the impact, or how the news affects your readers.

Covering a:

  • Speech? Write about the most valuable thing the speaker said, not the fact that she spoke.
  • Event? Focus on what people will be able to see and do at the event, not the time, date and place.
  • Meeting? Center the piece on what was decided at the meeting and how it will affect the reader, not on the logistics of the meeting itself.

What would Miss Piggy do?

To reach readers, think like Miss Piggy and write about MOI, counsels management consultant Alan Weiss. That’s “My Own Interests,” from the reader’s perspective.

One way to do that is to shift your focus from event — what occurred, when, where and why — to impact. That will make your copy more interesting, relevant and valuable to your readers.

  • Think Like a Reader

    Move people to act

    It’s counterintuitive, but true: The product is never the topic. The program is never the topic. The plan is never the topic. The topic is never the topic. The reader is always the topic.

    Think Like a Reader in Dallas

    Indeed, the secret to reaching readers is to position your messages in your audience’s best interests. (Most communicators position their messages in their organization’s best interests. Which is fine, as long as you’re talking to yourself.)

    Move readers to act with a four-step process for giving people what they really want.

    At Catch Your Readers — our two-day hands-on persuasive-writing master class on Oct. 2-3 in Dallas — you’ll learn a four-step process for moving readers to act by giving them what they really want. Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

    • Take advantage of the formula readers use to determine which messages to pay attention to (and which to toss).
    • Tap two rewards of reading you can use to boost audience interest in your message.
    • Answer the No. 1 question your reader is asking, regardless of your topic, medium or channel.
    • Make a two-minute perspective shift to focus your message on the value to readers — not on “us and our stuff.”
    • Use a three-letter word that magically makes your message more relevant to your readers.


Sources: Chip Heath and Dan Heath, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Random House, 2007, pages 75-76.

Lorraine Glennon and Mary Mohler, Those Who Can…Teach! Celebrating Teachers Who Make a Difference, Wildcat Canyon Press, 1999, 95-96


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