Veteran CNN political reporter Bill Schneider recently did a Q&A interview with PR News on media relations and offere
d the following advice: The media wants stories, not announcements.
Schneider’s advice is something I’ve been telling my clients for years, having spent nearly 20 years on the other side of the desk from PR people pitching nonsense. Clients inevitably come to me with what they think are great “stories,” but as their PR consultant, I have to inform them that their great story will never get published. Or, I have to figure out a way to shine it up so it will.
In order to get the media interested in covering your story, it has to be “newsworthy,” but news value is a concept that most people who never worked in the media, including many PR professionals, simply don’t understand. The standard for newsworthiness is that a story has to interest a majority of readers, viewers or listeners. The decision-making process on the media end, however, can be fairly subjective. That’s why it’s invaluable to hire a PR professional who has spent time in the news business because they know how to throw a pitch over the strike zone. Whether an editor will swing at it is another matter.
If you are a non-profit organization, community group, church, etc., it’s relatively easy to get publicity about your event because most small and mid-size media outlets publish community news as a matter of policy. But if you are a for-profit business trying to get free publicity about a promotion, the news department will most likely tell you to talk to advertising. There are three possible ways to avoi
d this pitfall: 1) find something undeniably newsworthy about the event; 2) stage a “PR stunt” (something extraordinary that’s impossible for the media to ignore) or 3) if you are already an advertiser, ask your rep at the station to apply some pressure.
The best way, however, is always newsworthiness. A legitimate story is impossible for the media to ignore.