At Abel Communications, we regularly help our clients secure media coverage, create attention-grabbing content, or develop a platform for storytelling. In order to do so successfully, it’s important to understand how to spot news, so let’s break it down:
Is it Newsworthy/Why Would Someone Care?
I learned the most about “newsworthiness” working in newsrooms early in my career, both in TV and print journalism. A big takeaway for me from that era was that news = attention. In other words, what is newsworthy is often what people are talking or thinking about.
For example, have you ever gone home from work after a particularly memorable or interesting day and couldn’t wait to tell your spouse or friend about something exciting happening at your company or in your industry? That’s the first clue that it might be news.
Back when I worked as a copywriter at WJZ-TV in Baltimore, I vividly remember a debate between an anchor and producer about what story should lead the 6 p.m. news. The anchor argued successfully that threat of an upcoming snowstorm was what people were most thinking about and that’s why it led the news over the latest crime or business story.
When thinking about news, always consider: why would someone care? Is this just interesting to me or might it have broader relevance? Here are other key things to think about:
- Is the news timely?
- Is it local, regional, or nationally relevant?
- Are there strong personalities involved who might shape the story?
- Is it out-of-the-ordinary and/or new?
One Might be a Fluke; Two Might Be a Coincidence; Three is a Trend
Another rule of thumb is to look for trends. When looking for a news story, consider the frequency of what might have formerly been an anomaly. A one-time occurrence might not be meaningful, twice might be a coincidence, but three times is a trend. Consider, for example, a once-downtrodden neighborhood that attracts new retail activity. The first time a new store opens it might be news… but when the second and third pop up, now you’ve got a trend that merits coverage.
And if that trend overlaps the focus or expertise of your brand, you can hop on this trend and place your company as a talking point within it.
Great Stories Don’t Need Spin
A compelling story often contains something unexpected, introduces a vivid character, or evokes an emotional response.
At Abel, we help Presbyterian Senior Living tell stories about the lives of residents and the great work their staff is doing at senior living communities. When young people around the world were protesting about climate change, residents of Presbyterian Senior Living got in on the movement and staged their own walkout. This story was a new and refreshing take on a topic that everyone was talking about, and earned coverage in Philadelphia Weekly and Green Philly.
A dynamic story is often one that is personality driven. The leaders of companies can be characters of sorts — they might be outrageous, charismatic, polarizing, or sometimes all of the above. Elon Musk is not just the CEO of Tesla — he also makes news through endeavors such as pioneering commercial space travel and saying and doing other outrageous things. Gwyneth Paltrow earns media coverage not only as a famous actress, but also as the founder of Goop, a growing lifestyle brand. The media cannot get enough of these quirky executives.
Finding a way to humanize your story can evoke a powerful emotional response in the reader. For example, this Baltimore Sun story highlights Civic Works’ “Tiny Homes” workforce development and job training initiative by focusing on the career transformation of one of the people whose life was changed through the program. More than “just the facts,” the story resonates with readers on a deeper level because they care about the personal journey it illustrates.
Find the Best Medium for the Message
Many stories can be best told visually, while others are better told through the written word. Gathering and sharing photos or video from an event will help readers and viewers truly see the story. A magazine feature, TV segment, or radio interview can get a brand’s message to a wide audience in a compelling way. For example, we helped Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences attract local TV coverage for the school’s medical simulation lab. The simulation, in which students act out the steps to take in a medical emergency, is an action-packed and visually appealing exercise — ideal for TV.
Owned content, such as social media or blog posts, is another vehicle for storytelling. We help STX, a global leader in lacrosse and hockey, create dynamic social content and blog posts. This type of content is a powerful tool for the brand to reach specific audiences, such as women’s hockey or men’s lacrosse. Plus, it provides the freedom for STX to be completely in control of its stories and the way they are told.
Need help identifying or telling the most compelling story for your company or organization? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.