Tackling Newsworthiness: How to Make Your Message a Hot Topic
Originally posted on Devine + Partners NewsHub on September 19, 2019
Written By D+P Intern Olivia Rotondo
Every client wants to be in the news, but PR professionals know that not every story is considered “newsworthy.” So, what does it mean to be newsworthy and how do you know when a story is interesting and important to a news audience?
To break it down, a story needs to fall into one or multiple categories that make a story newsworthy but keep in mind that media coverage is unpredictable and bigger and better stories can always “scoop” your story any given day.
Here are five reasons your story may be newsworthy:
A story that is timely is one that contains new information possibly related to events that have just recently occurred or are happening now. For example, around the 2017 Super Bowl many brands and companies tried to tie their stories and projects to Super Bowl Champs The Philadelphia Eagles.
Bud Light famously promised to hand out free beer at the Eagles parade and did. This became one of the most popular Super Bowl related stories and was especially popular on social media, where the brand first announced this genius move. By offering free booze, Bud Light created buzz. They took advantage of a popular sports news event and created a link to their brand… and, of course, stirred up some craziness on Broad street.
A relevant story is one that is informative and will help a reader make a decision or form an opinion on something that they are interested in. When deciding whether a story would be relevant to a specific audience, get into their perspective and ask, “would I really take time to read this?”
From a pitching standpoint, pick journalists that tend to write on the topic or publications with a target audience that would likely be interested in the subject. For example, if you are pitching a client event for children, don’t target an audience that doesn’t have a child to take to the puppet show — hit up the “mommy bloggers.”.
For a story to have proximity, it must include information or events that affect a local community or region. If you were to pitch a story about a client event in Philadelphia, from a pitching standpoint it makes sense to choose publications read and located in Philadelphia and in the surrounding region. Newsflash — no one across the country is going to care about your local event unless it can be turned into a big national story that has a timely “wow” factor.
It’s no surprise drama and tragedy get the most attention. Its effectiveness dates back to the Greeks and Romans. Stories related to touchy topics that can stir conflict or controversy tend to be very newsworthy. Something related to politics, current events, or any polarizing topic tend to get attention (for potentially good and bad reasons). Be careful with this one, unless you are willing to take a risk, and potentially the heat.
If there is one thing we know, it is that people love hearing personal real stories. Make them cry, laugh, connect, or want to take action. If it appeals to emotion and is relatable or moving, your message will get through. So, try to connect your client’s mission, project, or event to a personal story. If it is compelling, it can also act as a testimonial to your client.
If Reporters Don’t Bite…
If you can check one or more of these boxes, your story has potential to be a hot topic. Even better, if you can attach your message to an already trending topic or news story, making it even more timely, you’re more likely to see your story idea published. If your story is lacking these elements decide if it is even worth telling to a general news audience. And if a report isn’t interested in learning more about your idea for a full story, consider writing a guest opinion piece as a back-up.
Remember, while a story written by a reporter certainly adds to the credibility that your message is important, a story written by a reporter won’t always make sense for every story idea.
So if a reporter replies, “Sorry, this one just isn’t for me.” Don’t give up. Sometimes the story is best told by the person who was passionate enough to realize its importance from the beginning.