Before you write another press release, change your perspective and become one of them for a few minutes.
Today, you’re a journalist. Consider how you would write that story or tell it on the evening news. Make it so compelling that it’ll be on the front page or teased before a commercial break –or, better yet, the lead story.
Enter the elements of news, factors that determine whether something is newsworthy or not. No amount of press releases or follow-up calls will win a story or coverage if it’s not news. These things race through a reporter or editor or producer’s mind the moment they start scanning a press release. They’re searching for these to determine whether to pick up the phone to schedule an interview.
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. Some sources may and do cite additional elements (or call these by different names), but here are the main elements of news:
Impact – How many people will this impact? The more, the better. If it impacts five people, that’s not news. If it affects 500 or 5,000, now we’re talking. Explain how many people will be impacted and how it will affect them.
Timeliness – How new is this information? The newer, the better. Editors are looking for new research, new statistics – new, new, new! They don’t want to report yesterday’s news. It is, after all, the NEWS.
Proximity – How close is this news? Is it local, or does it directly affect the news outlets’ audience? If it doesn’t, it’s not necessarily out. Yes, people are interested in things going on elsewhere. In general, however, closer is better. Consider whether there are local connections or a local angle to something that’s happening far away.
Prominence – If important people or places are involved, people will want to know about it. On a local level, it could be the city’s mayor. On a national level, it could be celebrities.
The bizarre – How unusual is this idea, trend or product? Is it a new twist on something that’s already well-established?
Conflict – What is the conflict? Who does it affect? Why is this important? What can be done to resolve it? And, what does everyone think?
Highlighting and answering the questions to one or more of these elements in your next press release or pitch to the media will make your life (and theirs) simpler. Don’t bury it. Make it easy for all to see how and why they should pick up this next big story.
Elizabeth Seufer, an independent communications consultant in Columbus, Ohio, has worked as a print journalist for more than 10 years. Follow her on Twitter @ElizabethSeufer.