The story (not the devil) is in the details

Every day on our campus, there are a thousand stories to be told.

Students, faculty and staff are learning, studying and creating in a myriad of ways. At the same time, our 80,000 alumni across the globe are making a difference in their careers and their communities.

But to grab the attention of our audience in this media-rich society, we have to find just the right words to convey our compelling UW Oshkosh stories.

As a writer, I often have found that sharing interesting details can be the key to telling a good story.

The details about why new freshmen are choosing to enroll at UW Oshkosh, how professors are delving into their research projects or how alumni are applying what they’ve learned in their professions can set our content apart.

Of course, every story starts with the basics —the who, what and when—but it is the why and the how that fascinate readers.

In a story about UWO art students collaborating with Evergreen Retirement Community of Oshkosh residents, Alex Hummel, IMC associate director of news and public information, wove in a number of striking details that really helped to bring the project to life:

“With UW Oshkosh students as teachers, the residents dabbled in ‘clay postcards.’ They experimented with fused glass. Some Evergreen men, for whom art may have been downplayed as a frivolity a few generations ago, enthusiastically constructed ‘dashboard confessionals,’ or richly illustrated and designed memory books.”

The vivid description helped me to picture what the residents had created and want to learn more about the partnership.

While journalists are often warned to not overwhelm readers with too many facts and figures, I always think a well-placed number can tell a powerful tale.

For example, in a recent story about a UWO alumnus who traveled to India to help fight polio, IMC intern Danielle Beyer ’12, wrote: “They worked with a local construction company to fill a large hole with rocks and cement, and they earned the same amount of money as the local workers–$3.50 per day.”

Reading that striking detail of $3.50 per day made an immediate impression on me about the socioeconomic conditions in India.

The next time you want to bring attention to a new UWO program or an interesting student or faculty member, weave or tuck in some tidbits and watch the audience for your story grow. Or, share the why and the how with the IMC news team, and we’ll help you spread the word.

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