Creating a newsworthy story is the bread and butter of public relations work. Media relationships and persuasive pitching can get you so far when trying to achieve coverage but ultimately, it’s the story itself that is the most important aspect of launching a new PR campaign or release.
It’s the role of the journalist to report on stories and happenings that their audience will either be affected by, find informative or enjoy reading. If your story falls short of all three of these key factors then what may seem to be one of the most important developments in your client or brand’s corporate existence, may, to a journalist, be deemed as exciting as being stuck on hold all afternoon.
As a side note, being stuck on hold all afternoon was actually ranked as the 3rd most boring thing us Brits will encounter in modern life in a survey launched by an online gaming company last year. A PR story deemed newsworthy enough to be picked up by multiple national journalists.
There are a few things to consider when it comes to creating newsworthy content. Often scrutiny is your best friend in determining whether a journalist will actually be interested in what you have to say. As PR professionals, we shouldn’t be afraid to push back on ideas that fall short of what a journalist would consider as news.
1) Why should the audience care?
Knowing your audience is one of the most valuable tools when it comes to creating content that’s newsworthy. It may sound simple but it can often be overlooked and no two audiences are ever the same. Ultimately the journalist is looking to provide their audience with the stories that will resonate the most amongst their readers, whether it is for entertainment or for information. Proximity to the audience must be considered, not just in terms of location but the impact on the reader and the human-interest element to the story. If you can’t explain why the readers of X magazine should be interested in your news, then it’s likely that your story will fall flat with that audience.
Always ask yourself ‘why should the audience care?’. A modern-day journalist is under ever-increasing pressure and are assessed on the shareability of their articles, click through and bounce back rates, average dwell time and the amount of interaction their stories receive. This means they can’t afford to run content that isn’t of the upmost interest to their audience. Ensuring the story you create provides the journalist with the best possible content for their audience will secure the best results. This could be as simple as making sure you’re pitching some interesting and fun findings, such as the survey on the most boring things in modern life.
Whatever you pitch, always ensure you get a second, objective opinion. Often your point of view can become warped by working too closely to the brand or campaign.
Timing can be everything when determining how newsworthy your story is and can make or break media interest. If you’re a brand announcing an important piece of news, then get your story out quick. It’s called news for a reason and there is so much news that old topics can be quickly discarded.
Timing can also be used to enhance how newsworthy your story is. Looking for national days is one way to create a hook around your story. Why would a national journalist want to publish a 3-page report on the peanut butter industry – well because it’s International Peanut Butter Day – durr…
In the same way the right timing can make a news story, the wrong timing can ensure your story gathers dust at the bottom of a journalist’s inbox. When possible, it’s always best to avoid pitching around big news stories or announcements – think; the royal wedding, new iPhone launches etc. etc. Monitoring of the news each morning should be part of any PR pro’s daily routine, giving you a chance to pick up on any big stories that may affect the success rate of your story. Don’t be afraid to push your press announcement back if you think there’s another news story that will affect your own.
3) Shock value
The final thing to consider when creating a story is the most successful news is often shocking. That’s not to say that every story you put out has to be scandalous, but it is worth bearing in mind that it’s the most shocking news that grabs the headlines. This could be as simple as challenging a pre-conceived belief with research or producing a surprising headline on the back of a survey, but if you want your story to get noticed it has to stand out.