What is and isn’t news?

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

So you want/need some media attention!

If you own a business, feel passionate about a cause or want to bring an issue out in the open, the media can be a great communication tool, but just because you think you have something important to share with an audience doesn’t mean journalists, assignment editors and news editors will agree that you have a story worth telling.

In order to get media attention you have to understand what news is. Getting a story published in a newspaper or having it broadcast on a newscast isn’t going to happen just because you want it to or because you hired a PR firm to help you. It simply doesn’t work that way. You have to think like a journalist and the organization they work for.

Every time a story idea comes across a reporter’s desk, the first question that comes to them is – Why would my audience care about this? They then put themselves in the position of the audience or reader and answer that question. Clearly if there is no answer the story idea dies.

When my clients have a hard time with this I ask them to go through some basic questions:

  • Is it new?
  • Is it unique?
  • Is it timely? (Related to something else in the news right now)
  • Is it shocking?
  • Does it involve conflict?
  • Does it involve emotion?
  • Is it surprising
  • Is it scandalous
  • Does it involve Hypocrisy?

You might not like the above questions, but the truth is a “yes” to any of these questions means you stand a chance of getting your story/message heard and if you answer “no” to all of the question, your chances are slim.

All is not lost if you come up with “no”. We live in the social media age, where blog posts, tweets, and Instagram, which can include photographs and video help us share our messages. Content marketing on our websites can also go a long way in telling stories. In these cases, reporters are not required.

It is true that anyone can post, tweet, and send out news releases. This means we are in a very big pool of people all fighting for attention and getting traditional media attention once-in-a-while is still important for some companies. While some can afford fancy events, or the release of pricey research studies to attract attention, others may have to use data from small phone or e-mail surveys to grab media coverage. With a little thought and planning questions in a simple survey can result in new and interesting information that can shed light on an issue that is newsworthy to reporters.

It’s all about being thoughtful, creative, and at the same time realistic about your expectations. It is also important to remember to take baby steps- if it is your first attempt at working with the media, don’t discount local coverage. In other words, you don’t have to make the front page of the New York Times – sometimes coverage in your local newspaper or in a small trade magazine can lead to great things.

 

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