What Makes for a Great News Story
On any PR blog, you will find at least one post – more than likely you’ll find several – about what constitutes newsworthiness, as it is our business to distribute news about our clients. We are often put in the position of explaining to our clients what is and isn’t newsworthy. However, while we may always have news worth sharing about our clients, what makes our job most enjoyable is when we have an announcement or story that makes for a great news story – a story that will excite, motivate and move people. This is the type of news that we love handing over to a reporter or editor because we know they personally will enjoy writing the meaningful story for their audience.
So, what characterizes this type of great news story? While it varies according to specific publications or reporters, there are a few things that are almost always present.
No. 1 The Human Element
At the top of the list is the human element. If you will notice, every news story incorporates people – people who are affected by something, changed by something, doing something to make changes, etc. The No. 1 purpose of the news is to inform the public on issues that affect them, so when a client has an announcement or story with the human element – be it a beautiful story or a serious warning – we know it will make for an impactful news story people will want to read or watch and a story the media will want to share.
Here are a couple of examples to make the point:
- A local school is kicking off its annual fall fundraiser and would like to get news coverage to promote the event and encourage community participation. These types of events occur annually at nearly every school in town, so it’s not necessarily news. HOWEVER, if there is a student – say a cute little second grader – who last year raised more than anyone in the school and is looking to break her record this year, you probably have a story that will get the local media to interview her, snap a photo of her going door-to-door with her little clipboard, and get the news out about the fall fundraiser in a memorable (and adorable) way.
- A medical device company is set to launch the fifth model of a well-known device that was recently upgraded with new features. By itself, this announcement is probably newsworthy but this is the fifth time the company has announced a new model, and therefore, may be considered a redundant announcement. Based on the fact that it is a familiar product introducing new features that people would want to be aware of, the launch may garner a few news briefs in industry trade publications. HOWEVER, if this model’s features allow the device to perform new, life-saving functions that other comparable devices on the market aren’t able to do – and there is a personal testament to how this device saved someone’s life – you may have the ingredients for a feature story about the device. This announces the new model, but also showcases how it works.
No. 2 – Timeliness
If it isn’t happening now or tomorrow, it isn’t news, so timeliness is an important factor in any news announcement or story pitch. However, there are special circumstances with regard to timeliness that can up the ante from just a news announcement to a great news story.
For example, a nonprofit organization that provides services to victims of domestic violence puts on various awareness events throughout the year. It is often able to get mentions of these events in the media because of the impact this awareness can make in the lives of victims in the community, as well as the family members, friends and acquaintances of the victims. However, when a report is released by the local authorities showing a significant increase in reports of domestic violence incidents within the city or when, unfortunately, a domestic violence homicide happens, this is when awareness of the domestic violence organization will be the most impactful. This results in opportunities for sharing life-saving information about the services available to victims through the organization, as well as how people can learn more about domestic violence, such as through attending an upcoming awareness event.
No. 3 – Relevancy
Merriam-Webster defines relevancy as “a: relation to the matter at hand” and “b: practical and especially social applicability.” This goes back to both of the above elements, actually. The matter at hand will be what the news media is already talking about – what’s happening in the world (timeliness). And, practical and social applicability refers to how it applies to the practical needs and social lives of people (the human element). However, there are various levels of relevance depending on the audience. If a news announcement or story is relevant to a local audience only, that’s great! Count on a great local news story! But, sometimes, our clients have the elements that make their news relevant to a much larger audience, be it national or international; then it’s “Hello, CNN, FOX News and Washington Post!” Now, that’s exciting stuff!
We are in the business of telling stories – stories that inform, excite, motivate and move people – so when we come across the making of a great news story, we can’t help but get pumped up. And, when one of us lands that big story – or stories – an audible shriek of joy can be heard around the office. We can’t help it. We love great news!