How to “Wow!” Clients With a Strong Story Angle

By Jess Shanahan May 17th, 2023

Have you ever received a pitch request looking for “stories that make X topic feel fresh?” This was something I struggled to act on early on in my career, but as I transitioned from SEO writing to journalism, I realized what they were looking for: a clear and compelling story angle.

The angle is part of what defines high-quality content; it’s the perspective you tell a story from that makes it feel novel and new. And it could be the secret sauce you’re missing when it comes to wowing clients and getting more pitches accepted. Here are some examples of recent headlines with unique angles:

Opinion: Why I’ll Miss Bed Bath & Beyond

This opinion piece published on CNN is about more than the retail chain shutting down. It’s a surprisingly moving piece with a strong nostalgia angle.

The Best Nightstand Organizers for Anyone Who’s Unrepentantly Messy

This listicle from Buzzfeed isn’t just a rundown of side tables. The angle is that it’s specifically aimed at messy people.

The angles for each of these stories give a little more context to the topic and make them more interesting. Plenty of outlets will have covered the raw news, but adding a new perspective makes stories feel fresh.

How to apply this to content marketing

We all know that content marketing is different from journalism, but you can still apply these lessons when following a creative brief or pitching a story. Here are some examples.

Topic: Balance transfer credit cards

  • Good angle: Balance transfer credit cards can help improve your credit score
  • Better angle: How first-time buyers can improve their credit score with a balance transfer card

Topic: Electric cars

  • Good angle: The best electric cars for your daily commute
  • Better angle: Electric cars so quiet and easy to drive that you’ll never get road rage again

Topic: Getting your kid to sleep

  • Good angle: How to create a bedtime routine for your toddler
  • Better angle: How busy parents can reclaim their evenings with an effective bedtime routine

You can see how getting more specific with your angle can turn a story that’s been done a hundred times into something that feels new and exciting.

Your angle is the star of the pitch process

If a client has sent a pitch request for stories on a specific topic, a strong angle will help you stand out. For example, if the request asks for stories about romantic getaways, most writers will pitch a simple list. You can level up with a list aimed at a certain type of couple: The best adults-only hotels for couples who love an activity-packed vacation. Or, go with a more narrative approach: How to plan a romantic getaway that brings you closer.

As always, pay close attention to the publication’s audience, pillars, and other guidelines—the story still has to contribute to the client’s goals.

Finding the story angle when you have a detailed brief

You might feel you have limited options regarding the angle when you’re provided with a detailed story brief. Of course, it’s always important to follow the guidelines, but it’s possible to weave in a narrative too.

Let’s say you receive a brief to write about diversity and inclusion initiatives within a company. You’ll need to include everything they’ve asked for, but you can link it all together with a narrative angle.

In this case, you might lean on the impact of diversity within their business, hooked on a personal story from an employee and supported by industry statistics.

When to speak to your managing editor

If you feel like a story could benefit from a different angle but you’d need to deviate from the brief, it’s worth speaking to your managing editor. Even if the client doesn’t go with your idea for the story already in progress, you could potentially pitch it as a new piece.

Take time to look at different publications and think about the viewpoint of each article and what makes it feel fresh. This is how you can identify the angle of a story and gain inspiration for your own work as you read.

Using a strong angle to make old topics feel new will continually wow your clients and help you secure more work.

Image by Main photo credit: Boom. Inline photo credit: :fizkes
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