how to generate more stories from one piece of content

How to generate more stories from one piece of content (a journalist’s take)

Working out how to generate more stories from one piece of content is a great way of building a bank of articles or posts.

In this post, I’m going to turn back to my days as a political writer and show you how you can take an issue and use it to come up with more ideas as part of your content strategy. Of course there are tools to help you do this, for example just putting sentences and key words from your story into Google and seeing what comes up is one way of doing it.

But for this example I’m going to forget the tech and talk about what in journalism we would call a good old fashioned ‘follow up’ giving you an insight into how to think like a journalist at the same time!

So here goes!

Recently I read an intriguing story about the leader of Norfolk County Council writing to the new PM Boris Johnson.

The story was fairly tame in political terms and was a report about a letter sent by council leader Andrew Proctor in which he outlines projects he would like to see the prime minister invest in.

Standard stuff, you might think – and a good opportunity to get a bit of publicity for Norfolk’s needs.

But as stories go – I think there is a bit more here to dig into and the letter is a good example of how to generate more stories from one piece of content

And there are two reasons for this:

  1. To add a bit of grit to the story (this was clearly based on a press release as you can see here) and not just take it at face value
  2.  To lay the ground for future stories and expose political differences within the council (more of which I will explain later), particularly if the Johnson premiership proves as fraught as many believe it will.

First off – here is how I would approach this story

At no point does the article say whether Mr Proctor voted for Boris Johnson in the Conservative leadership election.

This is worth knowing.

Indeed, if time wasn’t an issue, it’s worth finding out what every front bench Conservative county councillor thinks – and also why not ask the rest of the Conservative councils, or at least the leading committee members?


Because if Mr Proctor had supported Jeremy Hunt – that is worth reporting. And if he was a Johnson supporter, then may be he knows something, or is calling in a favour at some point – the context is key here.

Thinking about how to generate more stories from this one piece of content

And if, following his letter, he is subsequently turned away empty handed by the PM, then there is a future ‘slap in the face for Johnson supporting council leader as Norfolk gets nowt‘ story waiting to be written.


Also if other councillors are strongly against a Boris Johnson government, that gives you potentially more stories to go on in future.

So thinking several steps ahead is always important in planning a political story

Following that line of thought – we already know that Norwich North MP Chloe Smith has declared her support for Mr Johnson, but meanwhile Broadland MP Keith Simpson has spoken out saying ‘he cannot trust Boris‘.

Andrew Proctor is also a district councillor in Broadland too, so you can see another potential angle for a story is opening up here, namely ‘does he trust Boris?‘ or ‘why do you trust Boris when Keith Simpson doesn’t?’  etc..

*Btw – what I’m talking about here doesn’t just apply to the Conservatives. So for example you could do a similar exercise for the Liberal Democrats in North Norfolk vis a vis Jo Swinson and of course with the local MP Norman Lamb. The thinking applies to any party holding power. 

Let’s get back to the letter

There are some angles which are also worth noting in the letter.

Firstly included in the bullet points of things “we would like to see”, Mr Proctor mentions

“Sustainable funding for adult social care will benefit our most vulnerable people and reduce demand for more costly care and NHS services.”

This is significant not least as the new PM is promising to make social care one of his priorities, so Mr Proctor is putting down a bit of marker here.

Secondly he asks for:

“A new form of localism and devolution for county areas, which can empower councils to deliver for their areas, without the contentious issue of having an elected mayor
Again there is an opportunity to open up a story which pitches his ‘new form of localism’ against the kind of directly elected mayor of which Mr Johnson worked as in a former life (so presumably thinks is a good thing..?)
Equally it might suggest a fault line between the council and other local authorities, or even the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership – which tried to drum up support for a previous devolution project which would have included a mayor.
So again plenty of opportuntities to get between the cracks.
Finally, Mr Proctor hints at the creation of an ‘Eastern Powerhouse‘ in his letter – a nod of course to the North and asks for investment to secure dualling of the A47 and the missing western link of the Northern Distributor Road.
This again is a point worth tracking and here is why.
Firstly the new PM made a beeline for the North West and promised to fund the HS3 East-West rail link (so infrastructure is clearly on his mind).
But so is politics – and this is why Mr Proctor’s letter may fall on deaf ears – because in brutal political terms there is nothing in it for Boris Johnson.
The EU referendum and the recent European Parliamentary elections show that Norfolk is overwhelmingly pro-Brexit, and could be seen to be safely in the bag as far as any general election goes, with perhaps the exception of Norwich North, Broadland, and may be even Great Yarmouth (unless there is a significant amouth of Pro-Remain tactical voting going on).

So therefore there is little to play for electorally for the new PM who is looking to mop up Pro-Leave Labour seats by all accounts


That would suggest that with the exception of adult social care, Norfolk can expect to see little from the new PM in terms of cash and investment – and again why the letter may be something that political journalists may wish to make more of in terms of generating more stories.
The fact that they haven’t done so is probably because of a lack of time to delve into it, and the pressure of competing deadlines and the need to find more stories to fill space with.
But it is always worth making a note of as many different angles and storylines as possible – not least as you may get a chance to return to them on a quiet day and they could open up a rich seam of future stories to go after.
And though I have chosen a political story to make the point – this is a process which could work for any piece of content.
Just ask yourself the question – is there a ‘jumping off’ point which gives me the chance to follow this content up, or open up new story opportunities. Get into the habit of doing that, and you’ll soon start to see angles everywhere which will prove really useful for coming up with more things to write about.
Need help with storytelling or analysis? If you are keen to sharpen your journalistic antennae either as a journalist or someone looking to tell good stories, then I can help. Call me on 07708 855 486 and let’s have a chat.

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Shaun Lowthorpe founder of Content Connective is focusing on content marketing, training and business journalism