What Makes a Story Newsworthy?

February 16, 2010 at 9:14 am Leave a comment

There are several basic components of what qualifies as “news”.  Publicists must be familiar with these characteristics in order to write news releases that will move past the media gatekeepers and get published.  These components include but are not limited to, timeliness, prominence, proximity, significance, human interest,unusualness, and newness.  One of the most important aspects may be timeliness since news by definition, must be current.

A publicist can make an article timely in various ways.  First, is to announce something when it first happens.  An example would be the announcement of an organization’s new CEO, or the launch of a new product.  A second way to make something timely would be to provide additional information to an event or situation that is already being covered.  For example during the Olympics, after Shaun White had won his gold medal, reporters continued talking about his win by mentioning his childhood or interviewing him after the medal stand.  A third tactic would be to relate an organization’s product or service to another event that has national recognition and interest.  For example, Kimberly-Clark publicized its toilet paper during halftime of the Super Bowl.  The company used Mike Ditka and an essay contest, “Share Your Cloggiest Moment.”

A good way to get media coverage is to have a “star” attend a grand opening of an organization’s event.  Movie stars, rock stars, and professional athletes do draw media attention, but other types of celebrities can draw attention as well.  For example, a hospital, clinic or shelter can get first-page coverage if a governor or even a mayor, pays a visit.

Another component of news is proximity.  Surveys have shown that generally news releases that are considered acceptable to media gatekeepers are those that have a local angle.  Hometowners are stories that are customized for an individual’s local newspaper emphasizing the local angle in the first paragraph.  Whenever possible the PR writer should attempt to “localize” information.

Another component of news is significance.  Any situation that can affect a substantial number of people is significant.  For example, Harvard recently released a study that said that people who drink “soda” gain an extra 15 pounds per year.  However, keep in mind when judging significance you must not only know how many people will be affected, but also who will be affected.

People love reading about other people.  This is called human interest and it is another component of the news.  Human interest is not restricted to celebrities.  An article may focus on a woman with aids detailing her experience with a sordid clinic and people would rather listen to her story in her own words rather than seeing bar charts showing the state’s decreasing funding for public healthcare clinics.

Newness is another component of what makes news.  New products or services should be written about in a news release.  For example, Apple’s iPod and iPhone generated thousands of articles and blog posts when they were first introduced.

**Some facts/definitions from Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques- 6th Edition by: Denis L. Wilcox

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Entry filed under: Pr Writing 3330- Section A, Topic of The Week- PRCA 3330. Tags: , , , , , .

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