The range of services offered by a modern and progressive PR agency continues to expand in line with the increasing number of channels available to share news and information.
However, this should never come at the cost of diminishing our traditional role of generating earned media coverage for clients.
In this blog, we discuss news judgement, pitching stories and the experience of working in a newsroom, unashamedly making a case for putting your PR needs in the hands of former journalists.
Making information newsworthy
Journalism is about reporting the news. But on any given day, do the number of interesting things happening in the world precisely match the space in a newspaper, or the length of a TV news bulletin, or the optimal number of stories for a news website? Of course not.
So what journalists do well is make decisions on what stories to publish to achieve the most resonance with media audiences. This skill is called news judgement or news sense.
You might think this sounds easy enough. In fact, isn’t the media full of stories every day? Why don’t we just copy some of them? The problem with that is those stories are now old news and your challenge is to find the next story, and the one after that, and so it goes on.
The job of your PR consultant is to find a story that will not only pass the news judgement test but also positively positions you in the eyes of your target audience.
The secret to finding an angle
Sorry, there is no one-size-fits-all formula to telling a good story.
We recently received a story suggestion from a client about the achievements of an individual living in one of their communities. After further investigation, our team of former journalists decided there was a better angle on the exploits of the group the resident belonged to. We turned the story around, pitched it and got some great coverage.
Taking this on board, the next angle the client put forward was about the achievements of a group of people in another community. But this time, we found a better story focusing on the group leader and once again turned the story around with a successful result.
Talk about confusing, especially when they called and quite legitimately asked for an explanation! Sorry, we just thought our angles were better, we said. It’s a hard thing to teach, we said, trying desperately not to resort to Dennis Denuto’s argument of “it’s just the vibe”.
News sense is hard to teach, and as it turns out, almost as hard to explain.
There are many different opinions on the best way to pitch a story to media and many different strategies available to PR consultants.
While getting the pitch right and having good media contacts is important, it’s much more important to produce something worth pitching!
Newsrooms are shrinking and journalists have fewer resources than ever and more immediate deadlines. But that doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten what a story is and will take anything a PR company serves up, regardless of how clever or attractive the pitch.
Any journalist will know the excitement generated by the arrival of an unexpected ‘freebie’. Wow, boxes of delicious donuts right at morning tea – yummy, share them around! Who sent them? Do they actually have a story? No? Never mind, pass me another donut.
All the donuts in the world won’t help unless you have something that is genuinely newsworthy. Get this right, and make sure you can provide images and vision, and the story should sell itself.
The right timing, every time
Successful PR is about strengthening your brand over the long-term, which includes generating a consistent pipeline of stories.
A big part of having a long-term relationship with your PR agency is the value of structuring a PR and content plan that ensures you always have a story to tell and a new and interesting way to tell it.
Knowing when to pitch a story is just as important as knowing how to pitch it. Showing your cards all at once could negatively impact your chances of obtaining media coverage later on, so work closely with your PR consultant and trust their ability to play the long game – it will end up working in your favour.
The school of hard knocks
There are plenty of great PR people who have never been working journalists. In fact, we have consultants at Pitch who have picked up excellent news judgement and achieve plenty of media coverage for our clients.
However, journalists must develop news sense from day one. To succeed, they need to get their stories published, posted or aired by convincing astute, no-nonsense editors of their news value. For their stories to lead the bulletin or make it to page one, journalists must compete with the person sitting next to them every day.
By its very nature, news has a short shelf-life. When a PR consultant gets their client in the news, it’s a job well done. When a journalist gets their story published, the editor is much more likely to ask, ‘what’s next’!
At Pitch, uncovering your stories is the starting point for everything we do and only made possible by our team’s superior knowledge of what makes news. For us, generating vast amounts of positive media coverage for our clients is just business as usual.
Get in touch with us today to discuss your PR needs.