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Identifying a Newsworthy Story - A simple test to help you spot a good PR opportunity

Sure, public relations may seem glamorous and fun - but in real life it can be intimidating and nerve racking, especially if you're an entrepreneur or business owner trying to navigate the media landscape alone. 

There are so many components...

Who do I contact?

How do I contact them - a phone call or an email? Do I pitch a story, send a press release or just a plain ole' fashion email? Should I send them pictures? Will they find my story newsworthy? Will the viewers/readers find my story newsworthy?


Next week I'll be releasing the Press Release Playbook, a comprehensive guide to planning, writing and distributing your own press releases to media. These recommendations come with 10+ years of experience in handling PR for multiple organizations - including radio, television and newspapers/journals. 

So let's start with a solid foundation - identifying what makes a good newsworthy story.

A story that is newsworthy will be a win-win situation for all. What do I mean by that?

  1. It helps the reporter/editor. Being a reporter can be a tough gig. They have tight deadlines, are constantly looking for story ideas and have to do a great deal of learning and researching depending on how familiar they are with the industry/topic they are reporting on. Most reports/editors are looking for good solid contacts in the community to make their job just a little easier. If there is a topic, event or story worth reporting on - they will gladly work with you to get the information out there. 
  2. It serves the community. This is the most important factor. If you care about the community you live, work or play in - than it's part of your responsibility to share opportunities and information.  Good PR doesn't involve a shameless plug, ads are a more appropriate place for that. Media tips or stories should serve the community - Why is this information or story important to them? How does this affect them?  
  3. It is good for business. Your business. Sharing your newsworthy story is not only FREE, but it gives your organization depth. It humanizes your business and allows potential customers or clients to see you up close and personal, not just through an ad. Have you noticed more and more companies sharing 'information' or content for free? Perhaps even in areas that don't directly involve them? They understand that customers are bombarded with ads everyday and that setting themselves apart means becoming a source of good information to the community. 

So, let's dive right in...

What makes a good newsworthy story? Whenever I think I have information that should be sent to the local newspaper, television or radio station - I put it through a rigorous DISRUPTion test.

The story or information must fit one of these categories:

Before sending it to the media, use the D-I-S-R-U-P-Tion
test to confirm that it's truly 'newsworthy'


David vs. Goliath

It's a tale as old as time...the underdog beating out Goliath.  As readers/viewers it gives us hope that no matter where we come from or how small we are compared to others, with persistence and hard work - we can achieve the unachievable.  And If you've noticed, the media loves sharing stories of hope. If your small business has managed to do something that your larger competitors haven't - that may be a newsworthy story! Or if your business has experienced rapid growth in the past year, that may be a newsworthy story!



On the other spectrum, any incident where something goes wrong can be newsworthy. A health insurance company that refuses to cover the costs for a widely used medical test, an accident or even an incident where an organization or company isn't sticking to a process. 



Marketing 101 tells us that the fastest way to be memorable is to be the first, the last, the best or the biggest at something. You hear this all the time when you turn on the news and someone reports on "the first Hispanic female to [insert accomplishment here]".  

*Here's the deal with this one...ya can't lie! You truly must be able to prove that you are the first, last, best or whatever superlative you are claiming to be. The only thing worse than no PR is getting bad PR. 



A newsworthy tip or story should be relevant. Both to the community you are gearing it towards and to the publication or media station.  For example, if I am in the tech industry I have to be cautious of the information that I send to my local newspaper.  The verbiage and content I would use in the press release would be different than that which I would send to an tech-focused magazine.  Make sure that you are not sending local media information filled with industry jargon that the general public will not understand, nor care to figure out. 



You know when someone tells you a story and your ears perk up, like "No way, that is the craziest thing I've heard". Reporters and editors also like stories that are unusual. For example, if a physician and her staff throw a 100th birthday party for a patient of theirs AT their office - well that's pretty out of the ordinary! Potentially newsworthy.  The story could include information on the patient, her tips for living a long life, potentially the special bond between her and her physician and most importantly why out of all the places in the world, she wanted to spend such a milestone of a birthday with her physician and staff.   



People are drawn to news that happens in their 'backyard'.  If your store has been awarded an accolade or has been nationally recognized, share it with your local newspaper!  Residents love reading about local businesses who are doing well.  Another newsworthy story that could fall in this category would be if you offer programs or services that benefit local schools or organizations in your community.  



Last but not least, share information and stories that are CURRENT.  Do not try and pitch a story out of something that happened last year (unless it's a follow-up story).  If you are sending a press release with information from an event that has already been held, than be sure to find a good newsworthy 'fact' about the event, ie. "More than $50,000 raised for XYZ" and include pictures that portray interactions or the exchange of a big check. 

Reaching out to the media may be a little nerve racking at first, but half the battle is being confident that you are sharing a story that is truly newsworthy. Invest some time into building a relationship with several media contacts and you'll start to see that good PR is more of a collaboration. 

Until next week!


1 comment

  • How do you know how to contact?

    Kimberly Santmyer

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