Understanding the 5W’s and What Journalists Really Want to Know 


Journalists have a job to do. They have to report the facts. However, the media is also competitive, which means that in addition to reporting the facts, the story has to be interesting and unbiased. It’s an incredibly difficult job when you think about it. This means that when media representatives are looking for story ideas, they look for ones that grab their attention and provide them with the facts that they need to do their job. They look for stories that answer the 5 W’s in a compelling way.

What are the 5 W’s?

The five W’s are actually five independent questions. As you write a press release, it’s always a great idea to jot down your answers to these five questions first. That way you can be sure that you integrate the information into your press release. The press release is a structured document that is designed to be factual and to answer these questions. However, many people mistakenly use them as sales pieces and fluff, so you’ll have better results if you focus on the facts first and then work to make the material interesting and relevant.

Who is/was Involved?

The first W is “Who?” Using the story of Cinderella as an example, the who would be Cinderella, the Prince, The Fairy Godmother, the stepmother and stepsisters. In your case it might be you, your company, or someone specific at your company depending on the focus of the press release. 

What Happened?

The second W is “What?” What happened? In the case of Cinderella, a Fairy Godmother helped her get to a ball where she met a handsome prince and overcame the obstacles her stepmother put in front of her. In your press release this will be the reason for writing the press release. For example, maybe you released a new product. 

Where? When and Why?

Where did it happen? This is most likely your company address or website. However, if you’re hosting an event or attending a conference then the “where” might be a different location. “When” is simply the date (and possibly the time) it happened.

 The “Why” can be a bit more detailed. Why did Cinderella go to the ball, for example? In terms of your business it might be why are you releasing the new product and what problem does it solve for your audience. 


Finally, there is the question of “How.” In some cases you may want to answer the question, “How” did it happen? More often you might want to let readers know how they can get in touch with you, how they can learn more, or how they can take action and make a purchase. 

Answering the 5W’s makes it easier for a journalist to know why your story is relevant to them and why it’s important. It gives them the facts they need and makes their job just a little bit easier. Before you write your press release, answer these five, or six, questions. 

Call us today to speak to one of our PR specialists: 1-800-713-7278

Anthony Santiago is Director of Marketing at Newswire. With over a decade of experience in PR, he helps ensure that clients understand the value of brand messaging and reach.

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