No news is bad news if you’re trying to get editors’ attention. Here are some tips on what you can do about it.
That press release you sent out to media outlets looked great. Snappy headline, pithy quote from the CEO, and all your company’s key messages conveyed in bright, clever writing. So how come, when your big news dropped, no one cared? The phone didn’t ring. The inbox didn’t ping.
It’s a dilemma that many a PR professional has faced. The vast majority of PR collateral designed to pique editorial interest fall flat, even when disseminated with advance notice to friendly media outlets to get the biggest bang for the buck. The result, in addition to frustration, is wasted time for executives and squandered marketing dollars.
But here’s the silver lining: You can do something about it. At the heart of the issue is your understanding—or lack thereof—of what constitutes news. Just because something is big news in your organization doesn’t mean it’s what journalists and news organizations consider news.
So what are the keys to newsworthiness?
Dig around in media literature a little, and you’ll find multiple answers to that question, but they have some basic factors in common. A reporter I know uses an acronym—TIPPOH—to gauge newsworthiness:
• T for Timeliness (Is it fresh?)
• I for Importance (Does it affect many people?)
• P for Prominence (Does it involve famous or powerful people?)
• P for Proximity (Is it geographically relevant to readers?)
• O for Oddities (Is it strange, weird, unusual, etc.?)
• H for Humor (Is it funny?)
That’s a good thumbnail guide. Drilling down, here are some possible news angles that can improve the chances of your signal standing out from the noise.
• Make your product or service the news: If releasing a new product or service, why is it an improvement over the competition’s? Is it a new market category or industry first? Does the product include features that were never before available until now? If you can’t come up with answers here, don’t expect the media to come around asking questions.
• Company data as news: Does your company have new, counter-intuitive data or results from a survey that would be of interest to the industry? Perhaps you have access to an internal company data scientist who would be willing to expound on the information. The data and company spokesperson commentary can be packaged for editors who might be writing or planning stories on the topic.
• Tying to news trends: Does your release or PR piece move the needle on the water cooler talk of the day? Is there a current trend or trends in the news that you can offer expert commentary on to editors? Or is your company’s product or service a solution to a current problem that’s trending?
Journalists receive hundreds of emails a day about “news” which does not meet their criteria. With smaller staffs and round the clock coverage, they need to identify the news quickly—and they certainly can’t waste time on stories their readers don’t care about. If you can grasp these principles of newsworthiness, you’ll help reporters do their job—and increase the chances that they’ll help you do yours.