Deciding what’s news: 6 questions to determine if your story is newsworthy

Newsrooms and bloggers are constantly flooded with pitches that aren’t even close to being newsworthy. Why are only a few stories and pitches picked up and the rest land in the trash or delete folder?

Let’s go back to the old “Journalism 101” inverted pyramid style of writing news. OK, I’m dating myself here, but these six rudimentary questions will help determine if you have a remarkable story to share.

Before you begin writing your pitch or press release, ask yourself:

  1. Who gives a crap? If you can answer this question, your response belongs in the headline or subject line. Hint: Relatives and paid employees don’t count.
  2. What makes my story outshine the other 372 that crossed the desk of the reporter or blogger today? Hint: Pitch purple snowflakes.
  3. Where would my story fit in to this reporter’s world?  Hint: Relevance rules.
  4. When is this most important? Today, tomorrow, next Tuesday?  Hint: Yesterday=snore.
  5. Why would anyone sitting in their den in Utah, driving on I-95 in Florida, or bowling next to my dad in New Jersey want to pay attention to this story? Hint: Connect with emotions and the human factor.
  6. How can this story help other people? Hint: It’s not about buying your book or hiring you to train execs.

Most reporters look at unsolicited press releases from people they don’t know as mere interruptions in the workday. Don’t be an interruption. Go for impact. How do I know? I was a news reporter and radio news director.

My mantra when I read or heard a pitch: Come on, make my day. Hint: I’ve mellowed, but the business hasn’t.

 

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23 comment on “Deciding what’s news: 6 questions to determine if your story is newsworthy
  1. Thanks, Sue – if we had a quarter for everytime we explained this to clients, we marketers would be very rich people. And still the masses don’t get it. Thanks for your clear, straightford explanation. With your permission, I will print and share with students AND clients.

  2. Hi!

    Thank you for a great post. Would be interesting to hear your take on what else is important at a pitch ie how do you view multimedia content such as video, good photos, illustrations etc. Do you believe that has an impact at the pitch (as media gets less resources and especially digital publications are in constant need of visual and moving material for impact)?. Would be great to hear your view on this.

    Regards
    Charlotte

    1. Hi Charlotte,

      Multimedia is quickly becoming the norm when pitching the media. Whatever visuals or “action” you can provide (briefly) that helps tell your story and engage them is good. It’s important to know who the tech-savvy reporters/bloggers are and include a short clip or interactive component to capture their attention. The visuals are especially important in TV and print as decision makers want to actually “see” something happening. This will help get their buy-in to your story or pitch.

      Cheers,
      Susan

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