Trying to get media attention? You need at least 1 of these

There is not a public relations person on the planet who hasn’t had a client who wants coverage in the news. Sadly, there are many PR people that go to unprofessional lengths to obtain this coverage.

I’ve heard stories from journalists about PR people sending gimmicky trinkets to garner attention — trinkets that cost the client money and end up in file 13; that hound journalists with call after call — again costing the client money while earning them a bad rep with the reporter; or sending a War and Peace length news release when one page is what is required. (If you can’t summarize your news, how do you expect a reporter to write a pithy news article about it?)

What you need to know are the elements of news — the factors that editors and reporters are looking for.

The nine elements of news

Timeliness: Freshness matters; it's the new in news. Does the thing you’re trying to pitch have a best-before date, after which it won’t be relevant? That could be a good thing. Examples include a special event, an interesting announcement or a new product or service that hasn’t been available before.

Conflict/Crisis/Catastrophe: Negatives are newsworthy. The old adage, “if it bleeds it leads” remains true. Just check the first story on the evening news or the top story running in your local paper. usually leads with a crime story. Is there some issue that your company is taking a stand on? Something that you’re fighting?

Impact: Does your product, service or cause impact a large number of people? Does it impact a small group in some profound way? One example that we hear in the news periodically is a new drug that will affect very few people, but can drastically alter the lives of those few.

Prominence/Celebrity: More value is attributed to issues and people that are in the spotlight. Why? Because readers and viewers pay more attention to these stories so they help to sell the news.

Proximity: One home-grown crook trumps 10 in Kazakhstan. If there is a train derailment in China, journalists will look for any Canadian riders to bring the story home. A little league baseball game gets coverage locally, but no where else.

Unusualness or shock-value: Sometimes referred to as the Man-Bites-Dog story. What is different, odd or unique about your news? It can often be just a bit of fun. Remember the Shreddies ad that proclaimed the “new” diamond-shaped cereal? It can also be a new use of an old item like a new recipe for a standard foodstuff or a newly discovered benefit of an existing product (Remember Skin So Soft being re-marketed as bug repellant?).

Human interest: Has someone done something to invoke the “ahhhhh” response? Been brave? Helped someone out? Are cats or puppies involved? 

Currency or trend: Is there a tie-in between your business and something that on trend right now? Is there a special day coming up that ties to you? An example would be Amnesty International’s use of Human Rights Day as its biggest letter-writing day of the year. 

Helpful: Does this help people out with something? Will it make people’s quality-of-life better? Does it save time? Does it help someone deal with a life challenge? Does it help to remind my kid to stop slamming the front door? 

These are the things that make the news. If you don’t have at least one of them, hold off sending a news release — or asking your PR person to send one — until you have something newsworthy to talk about.

Not only will it save you time and money (and who has extra of either?) but will add to your credibility when you do approach a news editor.



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