Finding ‘The Story’ When You Don’t Have a Product to Pitch

This is a guest post by Tyson Olcott, public relations manager for CLEARLINK, a digital marketing and sales company.

This is a guest post by Tyson Olcott, public relations manager for CLEARLINK, a digital marketing and sales company. 

In college I was taught that almost every piece of writing could be boiled down to the basic five elements of a good story: “Who, What, Where, When, and Why,” or as you might remember them, “The Five W’s.”

As a PR professional, I still use this method when crafting a story, submitting an award nomination, writing a press release, or even drafting an email. I try to identify the most relevant information that my audience needs to know in terms of “The 5 W’s” and go from there.

Telling the right story, as all good PR professionals should, can be difficult when you don’t have an answer to the question of “What.” “What” in this situation describes the product you’re trying to pitch, but, what if there isn’t a tangible product? To help get over this hurdle, I’m introducing “The Three P’s” to help you find the story in this scenario.

1. Personal:

I’m a sucker for a good story, especially one where the protagonist overcomes incredible odds to get where they belong. Those are also some of my favorite stories to write as a PR professional.

At CLEARLINK, we’ve found our company story through our people, their personal journeys, and how they got to where they are in their lives. I work with some of the most amazing individuals, from ex-mechanical engineers to former professional athletes, each with a different journey that brought them to CLEARLINK.

People truly are our strategy and when I begin writing, identifying stories and the personal journeys of our people is one of my favorite parts of being a PR professional. The opportunity to sit down with someone and interview them for a human interest piece is like an opportunity to walk a mile in their shoes.

Everyone has a story, and it’s your job as a PR professional to ask the right questions to get the right answers, leading you to the right story.

2. Partnerships:

When I made the transition from agency life to in-house PR, I had to shift my entire outlook on pitching media outlets. No longer did I have multiple clients or products to pitch—I only had one, my company. I shifted my focus externally in order to find partnerships with organizations within the community who had a story to tell, and in turn, I could tell my company’s story.

When all else fails and you find yourself searching for a story with no product to sell, shift your focus to look at external partnerships. When you’re able to find organizations that your company and employees are passionate about, the story will write itself.


3. Purpose:

Through partnership I’m able to find what I like to call a purpose. Over the summer, I was fortunate enough to help my fellow co-workers find a purpose beyond their desks, cubicles and offices.

In Salt Lake City, air quality is a hot-button issue. In fact, during the winter months we have some of the poorest air quality in the nation. This is an issue that affects our people every day.

So I decided to do something about it and take a stand, one tree at a time. In September, we created a partnership with a local non-profit organization called TreeUtah. Together, we gave more than 1,200 of our employees a purpose to make a difference in our air quality by planting a single tree.

During this event, I challenged everyone to think of a personal reason as they planted each tree. Were they planting for a fellow co-worker, a family member, or a loved one? Ultimately, we brought together all three elements of a story with no product, by telling personal stories, creating a meaningful partnership, and defining a purpose.