Public relations agencies get a lot of requests to write press releases. Before accepting the assignment, a PR firm that’s truly working in the best interest of the client will ask the following question: What’s newsworthy about this?
In the most traditional sense, the purpose of a press release is to introduce a newsworthy topic to the news media with the aim of having it result in a news story (a.k.a. “publicity”). To be effective, staff at PR agencies must think like a reporter, keeping in mind that a reporter is thinking like a news consumer (i.e. their readers, viewers or listeners).
So, recognizing the newsworthiness of a press release topic and packaging that information in a way that will be compelling to the end-audience is a key component of successful news media relations.
The following are several factors that determine “newsworthiness”:
- Timeliness: News that’s immediate or recent. Reporters aren’t interested in “old news.” News should be shared as soon as possible; otherwise, journalists may not want to cover it at all.
- Significance: News that’s likely to affect many people. The more people affected by or interested in a story, the more likely the news media will be interested in covering it. If a story is so narrow that it only would appeal to a small part of a news outlet’s audience, it may not be significant enough to cover.
- Prominence: News involving well-known people or institutions. Famous, notorious or popular people and companies are of greater interest to the news media.
- Proximity: News that is geographically in the news outlet’s coverage area. For instance, a commercial real estate reporter covering Tampa Bay will not write about an office building that was sold in Orlando if there is no connection between the two markets.
- Conflict: News about discord or strife.
- The Unusual/Novelty: News that is strange or novel. Unusual news tends to get reporters’ attention, especially in TV news.
Sometimes, a topic’s newsworthiness is not always obvious. The most skilled PR agencies are often able to take a topic that may not seem newsworthy on the surface and find a way to turn it into valuable news coverage, or get more mileage out of something that’s only marginally newsworthy.
For example, for client A.R. Savage & Son, we leveraged an announcement of the passing of a former company president – which, on its own may have resulted in only a brief mention buried in the paper – into a front-page story in the Sunday edition of The Tampa Tribune. We accomplished this by asking the right questions, having a deep understanding of the media market and knowing what’s truly “newsworthy.”