What makes a journalist decide to publish one story and ignore another? In spite of what many people think, it’s not a random decision. Deciding to publish a story all comes down to whether or not it is considered to be newsworthy. This means that if you can tailor your press releases and media pitches so they appear more newsworthy, you can increase the chances of getting media coverage for your brand.
The term 'newsworthy' is used to describe a story that is considered interesting and relevant enough to be published in the media. While different publications might have different areas of interest, there are a number of common features a story must have if it's going to be considered newsworthy.
By fully understanding the criteria that journalists use when deciding what stories to publish, you can shape your pitches to emphasise key newsworthy features and increase your chances of being picked.
Here are some of the qualities of a newsworthy story.
One of the most important features of a newsworthy story is timing. It has to be something that has happened recently or that's new. Most journalists won't see any point in talking about something that is old news or that people already know about, unless you can think of a new twist or relate it to something else that has recently taken place.
Most people find news and events that happen in close proximity more relevant and interesting than those taking place a long way away. This is worth keeping in mind when pitching stories. If you can take a local angle to your story, it’s going to have a much better chance of being picked up.
The most newsworthy stories are usually those that affect a large number of people. Events that impact a lot of people are considered more significant than those only affecting one or two, and this makes them more newsworthy in the eyes of journalists.
These stories don't necessarily have to follow the same rules as other newsworthy stories. Human-interest stories may not affect hundreds of people, and they can happen anywhere around the world. The crucial element of a great human-interest story is that it has a strong emotional appeal. These types of stories usually invoke sadness or amusement in the audience.
Anything that gets attention because it’s unusual can often be considered newsworthy. Novelty or quirky news stories are often featured for light relief amongst the heavier and often negative main news features. If you have an unusual or quirky story to share, playing up the novelty angle can help you get a foot in the door.
Stories featuring celebrities or famous figures command more attention and are considered more newsworthy than those featuring non-prominent people. If you've had a famous person involved with your brand or organisation it's worth thinking about how you can leverage that prominence to get your story featured. It doesn't have to be Kim Kardashian; your celebrity could be a prominent figure in your industry or local area.
Before you stress about how you're going to fit all these elements into your next pitch, don't panic. A story doesn't have to have ALL these features to be considered newsworthy, but every newsworthy story has at least one or two.
Keep this list handy next time you're pitching. When you know what journalists are looking for in a great news story you can tailor your pitch to emphasise these elements and increase your chances of success.