What makes something newsworthy

January 29, 2015

What Makes Something Newsworthy

Media relations 101: while we all want publicity, journalists won’t cover your brand or startup simply because you want them to. You actually need to have a newsworthy story to pitch them. The relationship between brands and the media is mutually beneficial – brands want coverage and journalists want compelling stories.

So what exactly makes a story newsworthy? Here are six elements:

Timeliness

For starters, it must be something new! It should be timely and immediate.

News gets out of date quickly. But how quickly? Well that depends on the publication cycle on whatever outlet you’re pursuing. “On a television rolling news channel events that happened during the past half hour are timely,” wrote journalist and media consultant Owen Spencer-Thomas. “In a monthly journal events that took place over the past 30 days are timely. Stories that are out of date are dismissed as ‘stale news’ and usually receive little attention.”

That’s why it’s so important to put together a press release and media materials – and get pitching – as soon as you know you’ll have something to share. But first you must ask yourself “why now?”

Broad interest

Does your story have broad appeal? That’s another question to ask yourself. If your startup changed offices, that may be interesting to you, but not for readers. However, if you raised $3 million in seed funding or launched an app that makes a difference in how users do things, people may certainly be interested in it!

Simply put, the more people affected, the better. “It is a near-certainty that the more people the story impacts, the greater the show in the paper,” wrote Phil Hall, a British PR consultant and former newspaper editor. “The sad and untimely death of much-loved Coronation Street actress Anne Kirkbride, and the widespread coverage that this story rightly received, is an example of how stories that affect a large proportion of people achieve a greater showing in the paper.”

Statistics

Often times, they’re the meat of the story. The hard facts give your story context. For instance, two years ago, I covered a Toronto startup that reportedly created $1 million worth of jobs in Canada. And this was a time when the unemployment rate was rising. Sometimes, the numbers are what makes the news.

Human interest

This gives your facts a human face. After all, people want to hear about other people! Humanize your story if you can. Do you or your startup’s founder have a compelling personal story? What prompted them to turn to entrepreneurism and launch their own startup? Passion in a specific area? An idea that they thought will make a difference? Stories like these that evoke emotion are what grab the media’s attention.

Proximity

Stories that happen near us or hit close to home have more relevance. Interestingly enough, I’ve been pitched by several different startups in India. While I’m sure it was interesting, a Canadian freelance writer like me writes about Canadian startups. Who would have thought? And odds are a Canadian startup won’t interest the Taipei Times either.

“Most news organizations cover a specific geographic range,” Spencer-Thomas wrote. “Two thousand job losses in Taiwan won’t get a mention in the U.K.”

Unexpected or unique angle

Finally, people always like the unexpected. Another story I wrote last year was a profile of a nine-year-old entrepreneur. I mean you don’t expect a grade 4 girl who spends her time playing on the swings and singing to be launching her own startup too, do you? It’s the surprise twists that grab people’s attention. And speaking of profiles…human interest too, remember?

In any case, please keep in mind that it comes down to breaking the “so what” barrier: you certainly care about your news, but will anyone else?

Image credit: by uhlandfriends, via flickr.com.

Author

Samuel Dunsiger

Samuel Dunsiger is a freelance writer, editor and communications consultant. He has written for variety of print and online outlets. He has also worked for a boutique PR agency in San Francisco that specializes in startups, and supported the media relations’ activities for a range of brands and non-profits. Follow Sam on Twitter, @samdunsiger.