What Makes a Story Truly Newsworthy & Compelling to Media
As former journalists and veteran PR pros who understand the news and needs of media, we are often helping our clients flush out their newsworthy and compelling story. It’s not as easy as you think. We have to think like journalist every day.
Most startup founders and entrepreneurs have their own idea of what their news story is or should be. It’s our job to help clients understand what media look for and want today, and it’s not all too different than journalism and reporting have always been. We ask our clients to trust our nose for news and knowledge of the media landscape to craft a compelling news story that media want to tell.
Several factors contribute to making a story truly newsworthy enough to interest journalists into writing your story. For as long as journalism has existed, the following criteria is typically used to determine whether a story is worth covering:
Timeliness: When it comes to timing of a story, we consider whether it is an immediate and timely story to tell, or if its evergreen – meaning it can be told at any time. Evergreen stories typically go into a file and are forgotten. A story that is current and has a sense of immediacy is considered more newsworthy just as events that are happening now, or have recently occurred, are more likely to be considered newsworthy than events that happened in the past simply because of the news cycle.
Media report on stories when or as they’re unfolding. We’re no longer in a 24/7 news cycle, but a minute to minute cycle, putting more emphasis on the reason why now is the time to pitch media your story.
Significance: The impact and relevance of a story to a wide audience is an important factor. Stories that have a significant impact on individuals, industries, communities, or society as a whole are often considered newsworthy. This could include events such as natural disasters, political developments, or major scientific discoveries.
Data: Data is a real driver for telling compelling stories. Not only can valuable data explain the “why” your story matters but also define timing for telling it and present a local, regional or national trend that consumers or business owners should pay attention to. Presenting a visual of this data can influence media and be used in their story.
Proximity: Companies should always generate hometown support through local media. Why? Local media want local stories, and your community has a vested interest in your business and its success (i.e. you might hire in the future). Moreover, events that occur locally or have a direct impact on the local community are often given priority by news organizations. Proximity might also refer to market or industry which also has a vested interest in your company story and news.
Human Interest: There is nothing more compelling than a human interest story and reporters love them because they put the story in context through the lens of someone who has been there. These stories evoke emotion and connection, through compelling personal narratives that educate, encourage and influence people. Human interest stories, such as those about extraordinary achievements, human triumphs, or heartwarming experiences, can capture the attention of audiences and they are powerful.
Conflict or Controversy: As “reported” in this post, stories that involve conflict, controversy, or debate are often considered newsworthy, and even more today than ever before. Conflicts between individuals, groups, or entities, as well as controversial issues that spark public interest or debate, can be considered newsworthy due to their potential for generating interest and engagement. They can be captivating. I think of it like a car accident. You have to slow down to look.
Novelty or Rarity: Stories that are unique, unusual, or rare along with events or developments that are unexpected, surprising, or out of the ordinary can easily capture the attention of audiences and be considered newsworthy. People with contrarian thinking can spark interesting conversations and stir up an industry, in the right way. Media want new expert sources with fresh points of view and new company, startup, product, service stories that haven’t been told before.
Relevance to the Audience: Stories that are relevant to the interests, concerns, or values of the target audience are more likely to be considered newsworthy especially local and industry, but also by consumer interest segment (i.e. fashion, startup, consumer products). Journalists prioritize stories and pitches that are relevant to their specific “beat” or topic they write on and their audience or demographic.
Together, these are a good stick in which to measure the newsworthiness of your story. And while every story is unique, it’s important to remember that almost all of the best stories, in today’s curiosity-driven headline world, have share these qualities. It’s just good journalism.
Finally, for you to be successful, you must understand the media and what it is today, how it operates. Read this for more information.