In today’s growing media landscape, the need for newsworthy content is at an all time high. Battling political headlines, the next unicorn, or the next unicorn to IPO seems to take all the attention off the “smaller players.”
Think about the last time you read about a startup in New York Times or USA Today. Chances are slim to none, but if you do recall, then you might have not realized WHY they had secured that placement. Or think about one of the most common sayings in PR, “think like a journalist.”
Okay, so how the heck do you think like a journalist? Answer: Focus on the topics that are newsworthy. If you’re struggling, like many of us are, then here are a few ways to consider your story’s newsworthiness and relevance.
What Makes a Story Newsworthy?
We all ask ourselves this very question whether we’re crafting our own story, or sometimes even one we’re reading. Here are 4 ways you can formulate the most compelling story and mirror journalists’ preferences when it comes to relevance and interest.
The Story Behind the Story
So what would make an editor just snap it up if you sent it, and WHY? Anna Crowe, from Crowe PR, wrote about this back in 2013, yet the same questions still apply today. Here’s what she recommended her team consider when pitching their clients:
- What does the product or service do that people would care about?
- Does it solve a common or important problem?
- Does it improve health, appearance, or love life, or save time and money?
- Does it help one’s career, a business, or an investment? Is it informative, poignant, humorous, sexy, provocative, or inspiring?
She goes on to say, “Facts are essential—we can’t overhype or oversell the story—but unless we’re dealing with breaking news, facts are not always enough.” And she’s right. Facts alone won’t make the story, but they can amplify the WHY.
According to Rohan Ayyar from E2M Solutions, “the process of pitching your pieces must be data-driven, if it is to have a shot at making a mark in the media.” The most successful pitches today are rooted in data, with hard stats to back up WHY, and offer “something special” to the journalist and their readers. As a rule of thumb, we always recommend including statistics, sales numbers, unique downloads, etc. that pertain to the story you’re pitching. Think of pitching media like you’re pitching an investor: if you can’t back up WHY with numbers, then chances are it’s not unique enough.
The Brand’s Preferences vs The Outlet’s
More often than not we hear, and see, a lot of brands pitching their CEO as a thought leader. While this works in some cases, most journalists do NOT want to receive a pitch of this caliber. Yes, it’s important to notate you have an expert who can speak on X, but this can easily take shape within your story.
Pitching a story is a lot like pitching an investor and, one of, if not the most important components of each is the time. You’ve probably read countless infographics explaining the best day and the best time (i.e. morning before 10 am) to reach a journalists’ inbox. But what about the actual time frame? If you’re pitching a product launch, would you contact a journalist the day after it’s been released? Hopefully, your answer is no. What about a study or survey? Would you contact a reporter about finding without having analyzed the results? Let’s hope not! So why don’t you consider this the same when you’re pitching your own story? The timeliness of a pitch can mean the difference between landing a placement or having your pitch go unanswered.
What Kinds of Stories Are Most Newsworthy?
Sonya Mann, a former staff reporter at Inc. Magazine told us, “It’s (OnePitch) about the same, conceptually, although better in the sense that it’s usually shorter and thus easier to skim. The average PR pitch is just pretty uncompelling.” Which led us to believe there’s still a disconnect between what folks are pitching versus what should be pitched. Below are a few examples of ways you pitch your story that can make your pitch “irresistible” for journalists.
Company news surrounding a launch, product update or expansion, funding round, M&A, etc. can surely help gain attention among your readers. Two of the most important factors to consider here are time and data.
Studies and Surveys
Releasing a report is another great way to attract the attention of media and entice them to write about your findings. Of course, you want to consider not only the quality of the information but also what the findings identified. Is it a breakthrough? Does it reaffirm an existing belief and build upon it? Be mindful of what you’re asking and how you want to present it. Take into consideration the outlet you’re pitching and how your findings/data tie into their voice and readership.
Product Roundups/Gift Guides
Although it’s a battle in the consumer space, pitching a product for a roundup or gift guide is a quick, easy way to get your product featured and position it within the minds of consumers. This pitch tends to lean more heavily on timeliness and less on data or the story behind the product. Many media professionals will even list, or post, about their upcoming gift guides to help brands plan in advance of the season. Be aware, though, many journalists voice their displeasure with gift guides, and you want to make sure to do your research before contacting them.
Ways to Enhance Newsworthiness
Aside from sharing the news that journalists want to read, you can also provide an even more unique approach to getting your story told and securing coverage ahead of the scheduled release. See below for two options that will help you get a leg up on the news cycle and provide journalists with information in a more timely manner.
To pitch an embargo, you must first know what it is. By definition, an embargo is a request made by a source that the information provided not be shared until an agreed-upon date, time, or based on certain conditions. Interestingly enough, a lot of PR pros pitch embargoes but have little to 0 luck landing a placement. Why you might ask? Most often we hear and see, it’s because they are pitching a new contact an embargo without the others’ agreement. As a rule of thumb, it’s always important to confirm interest then provide an embargoed story.
This type of story can have a MAJOR impact on brands and brand awareness, but it must be met with caution. Michelle Garrett recently shared her thoughts on landing an exclusive and the main takeaway: have a relationship, first. Don’t expect to pitch a journalist at TechCrunch or NY Times an exclusive, and have it published, if you’ve never spoken. Yes, there are certainly cases where you’re the next unicorn releasing an ICO in the Blockchain space, but realistically be smart about WHO and HOW you pitch this type of story.
These tips above are only a few that can help get your brand coverage in a sought after publication. By implementing a media relations strategy using these practices, you can send your message at the right time, using the most optimal information, served to the right audience.