We live and breathe our businesses. Everything in our business is interesting to us and it’s easy to get tunnel vision and think what we do will transfix others as well! We are in for a rude awakening if we think our daily endeavours are intrinsically newsworthy. For a story to find its way into the media, it must meet certain criteria and that’s where the skill of a PR/communications team come into play. They will be objective about the company’s news and look to create campaigns that offer fresh impossible-to-ignore stories. Let’s look at what’s needed to spark a journalist’s interest and, hopefully, make the headlines.
What is news?
When assessing a story, journalists will invariably ask “Is it new?”, “Is it extraordinary?”, “Is it unusual?” and “Is it people-centred?” To be worthy of a headline, a story needs to be current. Different and unusual are likely to be newsworthy, but this, of course, depends on the context of the story and the community/society in which the event is happening. An event may be unusual, yet still not have wide appeal, so would not be worthy of general news coverage but may be relevant for specialist media. Most journalists are looking for stories centred around people – after all, our world is shaped by the things we do, and how we are impacted or respond to events.
A news story needs to explain why the company is making a particular move, who will benefit from the move in ways that matter to the outside world, and what need it fills. For example, the opening of a new office or a product launch only becomes interesting when tied to major benefits for society – how will these things change the status quo? When planning a story, a good tip is to start by asking “why?” rather than “what?” Why does this story matter to people outside your company?
Preparing the story?
To generate publicity via news, you must have a story that meets the above-mentioned criteria, then develop the story and tell it well so that you can cut through the mass of press releases and email pitches sent to journalists. Whether you’re communicating a big corporate story such as an acquisition, sale or merger or running a public education campaign, you need to do all or some of the following:
• Compose an articulate short story that gets to the uniqueness quickly
• Ensure facts and research are sound and prove your story
• Demonstrate how your story involves/impacts people
• Tailor angles for different media – consider exclusive placement
• Provide key assets, eg spokespeople, case studies, stats, high-quality images
Journalists have to stimulate and excite their readers as well as their editors! Pitch them stories that they can easily ‘sell’ to their editor. Providing fresh and innovative news showing why the announcement matters is the best way to transform company news into something a journalist wishes to take further. Focus on a story with genuine external appeal and you will be one step closer to creating a headline.