As a former business journalist I’m all too aware of the deluge of press releases that most journalists are sent daily. A high proportion of these never get used because they are just not newsworthy enough. As a marketer it’s your responsibility to act as a filter before you even start writing. This is important because, A. A press release that has no interest to anyone but your company won’t get used and so you will have wasted your time, and B. You don’t want to get a reputation with journalists where they think you don’t have a clue what is news.
Confidence to push back on what is newsworthy
Being this physical filter is easier said than done depending on your rank or position. I know all to well that if it is your boss or your client (if you’re a PR company) that’s telling you they’ve got a great story it can be difficult to say no.
Often there’s an education process that needs to be done to help such parties understand what is news. It may seem like a difficult battle to start up front, but it will make your job a lot easier in the long run and will gain you greater respect.
Remember that you are employed because you have the expertise – flex it! Managing expectations is one of the most important things you can do.
The easiest way to make this assessment is to put yourself in the readers shoes and imagine whether you would want to read such a story.
Other routes to satisfaction
It doesn’t have to be a flat “no” to any publicity on weaker stories… finding this middle ground can really help you to keep everyone happy in what can be a difficult balancing act.
These less newsworthy stories can make great blog material and can be used across social media. They can also be used as snippet stories within newsletters.
I’ve also found that sometime high-ups really just want to get the story out to all their staff. Creating a weekly internal email newsletter of company news and developments, staff activities and competitor news can be a great medium for this.
Alternatively you can often knit together lesser stories with more headline grabbers as good background story fodder.
Pitch it right
All press releases won’t be relevant to all people, so avoid blanket distribution and tailor the release to each audience. So, using a fictional company called “Office Biscuits” your press release might be about the fact that they have sold more biscuits than anyone else in the last year.
For regional press you would need a regional tie in. If Office Biscuits was based in Manchester you could send out to Manchester and some North West press with. “Manchester firm claims biscuits top spot”, or “North West firm tops biscuit sales”.
If you wanted to send a similar release out to the office sector press it could be “New office biscuit supplier tops biscuit sales in year one”.
Aim high when the story is right
National press and broadcast media should only be approached if you have a story that would be of interest to the general public.
Using the same made up company example, a possible story could be “Survey finds we’re eating more biscuits than ever before”.
A good route to broadcast media can be the news programmes, particularly those that mix business and leisure such as BBC Breakfast. Such programmes are always looking for story ideas that will spark interest and can be filmed in an interesting background. A biscuit factory would be ideal, and a good angle might be, “Office Biscuits invests in multi-million pound equipment to revolutionise biscuit making and meet massive growing demand”.
Are you a marketing professional that has struggled to educate others on what is news? We’re interested to hear about your experiences.
What are your tips on assessing if a story is really news, and what methods do you use to make senior professionals and clients understand this?
ChangeToWin Image by New Scientist