Our biggest challenge in PR is getting our stories published in the news. But to get in the news, we must first be “newsworthy.”
Unless your business is related to politics or celebrities, chances are you need to work at being newsworthy. Don’t despair, even the most mundane of businesses can be compelling enough to land the news.
What does it mean to be newsworthy anyway?
7 Ways To Be Newsworthy
If you observe what gets published in newspapers, magazines and blogs, or talked about on the radio and TV, you’ll notice they have at least one of the following characteristics:
That’s why they’re called the “news” in the first place; they’re about things that are new. They’re happening right now. They’re happening for the first time. It’s novel, it’s fresh.
- Look for what’s new in your business or in the activities you’ve participated in lately.
- Implement business-related activities that are different from what your competitors are doing, such as sponsoring a study (and then release the findings), participating in a charitable event, winning an award.
An event becomes a news story, because it affects many people (since we’re all tied to our phones, think of anything Apple or Blackberry does) or affects a few people in a big way (cure for a type of cancer found). Something that has a limited effect so far (soft launch for a new product or service) — but can be scaled up significantly — is also newsworthy
- How has your product/service/program affected your customers? Turn your answers into story ideas.
- Ask customers if any of them have discovered an unexpected but desirable result from using your product/service/program.
- Keep monitoring your customers to mine for indicators of impact (e.g., 10,000 downloads for an app, 1000th customer)
3. Close to home
People are naturally interested in things that happen in places or to people they’re familiar with. This is why it’s usually easier for us to get coverage in local media than outlets that are regional or national.
- Monitor local media and bloggers, and keep an eye out for media opportunities.
- Think of what aspects of your business would be interesting to a local audience, even if it’s not necessarily compelling to someone outside your geographical location (e.g., hometown lad makes big with start-up business)
When something happens to someone famous, it’s news. Celebrity “sightings” wearing or using your product can mean an instant fan base for you, and immediate sales as your product becomes a “must-have” item.
- Consider getting a celebrity spokesperson to represent your product or brand (this often involves working with their stylist if your product is fashion oriented or working with a firm specializing in celebrity gifting)
- Tap local or community celebrities to participate in your live events or other activities
Controversy is newsworthy. To be controversial, you must be open to conflict, disagreement, and tension.
- If there’s a generally accepted notion in your market or industry that you disagree with, speak up about it. But do so with grace and diplomacy. In other words, speak your mind without picking a fight
Some news items may not have any of the characteristics on this list, other than the fact that they’re just plain interesting. These are usually stories that evoke strong emotions from the audience: anything from amusement, to fear, to anger. Absurdities and human interest stories usually fall under this category of news.
- Regularly scan your industry and environment for elements that may raise eyebrows. How do they relate to your business?
- When you tell the story of your business or how your product came to be, watch your listener’s reactions. What captivates them the most? Play that up and possibly make a media pitch out of it.
Whatever is the best, the biggest, the fastest, the most, the only, the first… makes the news.
- What is the USP of your product/service/program? Use that as the starting point for a story idea.
- Ask your customers: What does your product do best? What is it most useful for? Ask permission to quote them.
Use the list above to identify story ideas to pitch to journalists. A good exercise is to sit down with a team once a month, go through the list, and brainstorm as many story ideas as you can.
Read, watch, listen to media, including social media, to get a good idea of what journalists find newsworthy. Soon mining your business for what’s newsworthy will become second nature to you.
Elena is founder of a technology PR agency that works with startups to billion-dollar companies. She is passionate about helping marketers and small business owners with practical publicity strategies, which she's also using for her own bling flip flop company.
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