What makes a great news story?
Successful media relations comes down to two key elements – solid relationships with journalists that help to get your story heard, and having a compelling tale to tell. So what makes a great news story? If it has some or all of these attributes, the chances are you’ve got a quality story on your hands:
The importance of timeliness can’t be overstated – your story has to be both recent and topical. A good way of developing articles is to take a national business story and give it ‘extra legs’ by expressing a different opinion or taking a new perspective.
Relevant to the target audience
Unless your story has universal appeal, it must appeal to a target audience. This means you need a local angle. Some titles are rigidly parochial about their circulation areas – being located a few hundred yards on the wrong side of a road can make the difference between a page-lead and a one-paragraph ‘filler’. So call the business desk or news desk and ask if they cover your area.
Unusual or quirky
Journalists are inundated with news copy and off-beat stories are seen as a great way to pep up an otherwise dry business page. You might be an accountant who sky-dives or an engineer with a passion for orchids. But be careful not to risk your reputation just to create a quirky story.
Conflict and opinion
If your opinion is the same as everyone else’s in your industry you won’t stand out. So think if there are ways you can challenge conventional wisdom, or suggest alternative courses of action. Again, though, don’t put your reputation on the line by making controversial comments that could come back to bite you.
The ‘what’s in it for me?’ factor
Think about your story from the journalist’s reader’s perspective and tailor your article accordingly. For example, if you explain how companies can save thousands of pounds by taking a particular course of action, business people – and therefore journalists – will be interested.
On the flipside, warnings can be equally effective. If your story explains how firms could suffer financial disadvantage if they fail to heed your advice, the journalist will sense an opportunity to impress his or her readers.
The numbers game
Journalists love data and statistics because they give a story extra credibility and instant impact. So wherever possible, use survey results, turnover figures, headcount, milestones expressed as numbers, and percentage increases or decreases.
The right tone of voice
If your comments read like a text book, the chances are your story will not see light of day. Keep your tone lively, chatty and engaging. Imagine you are talking – not writing – to a customer with a short attention span. Keep your sentences short. And avoid clichés like the plague.