MR 101: Is your story newsworthy?

Public relations PRos understand the media – they understand how to help their clients tell their story to the right people. Understanding the media is part of the value that public relations PRos bring to the table.

As a PRo in Training, it may be difficult to figure out whether the story you’re being asked to pitch is newsworthy or not.

Does it have local relevance?

If you’re pitching the local press, you should have a local story. Or if you have a national story, what’s the local angle? Think about why the launch of a new Web site would be of interest to the local press before you pitch it.

A sub-question might be “Is it relevant to the media to which you are pitching?”

You may be pitching a magazine, or a national television show. In that case, you need to consider the story’s relevance to that media’s audience.

If it’s a local issue, how does it stack up against other newsworthy items?

As a PRo, you need to be a consumer of media – particularly the media in which your client, company or organization is interested in being featured. What else is going on in the world?

An editor once told me, “We’ll run the story unless the Pope dies…” Meaning, of course, that your story can get bumped, or get ignored in favor of breaking news. The irony is that just after the story ran – maybe a week – the Pope actually did die. Weird.

Does it tie in with a national or international trend?

If you had any kind of local soccer (excuse, me football) related story in the last month, you were money with the local media.

Is it unique? Or does it involve someone or something interesting, doing something novel?

Your standard “so and so announced today” release isn’t likely to highlight what you know is a unique story about what’s going on in your organization. What IS unique – figure out how to feature that in your pitch.

I’ve got a real estate development client that’s developing, well… some real estate. Imagine that. The marketing director and I have gone to great pains to tease out all the interesting stories about this particular development – the first, the best, the greenest, etc. And we’re getting good response

Does it have to be told now? Is there an immediate hook?

Timing is important. If there is a degree of urgency or immediacy to your pitch – and it HAS to be real (no fake urgency, please!) – your story will be more newsworthy.

Does it involve babies or animals?

Duh.

*Thanks, Erica!

Not an Intern this summer? What to do… what to do…

Summer’s in Oregon are the best! Gorgeous days, lots of nearby recreation and a perfect time to beef up your resume with a PR internship.

What? You don’t have an internship this summer? That’s ok. You can still get some experience and make some connections.

I asked some of the PRos I know and here are the best tips:

Lisa Pulliam, Public Relations Manager, Western Oregon University: “Set up a job shadow. Especially if you’re a sophomore or junior and still trying to figure out if PR is for you. Most professionals are more than willing to spend a day or half-a-day with you to give you a taste of the industry. Think you might be interested in political work? Contact a local candidate’s communication director. Non-profit might be your thing? Lots of nonprofits have a PR/Marketing director and nearly all have a Development Director (fundraising). Even if you are interested in an entertainment PR or agency career, there’s someone in your area that does that work. It’s a great way to build relationship with professionals.”

Erica Harbison, Account Executive, Waggener Edstrom (Portland): “Go to the local city hall or your favorite charity organization and see what projects are in the works – maybe an event or volunteer recruitment effort – see if you can help them with PR/marketing. Even if you’re not doing a formal internship, you can get involved with projects on a short term basis – maybe write an article for a newsletter, create flyers to hand out or help them update their Web site. The organization will be appreciative – and you’ve got a portfolio piece to show for it.”

Laura Bishow, Account Executive, Maxwell PR (Portland): “Volunteer!” (pretty basic, huh?)

Other tips:

Set up informational interviews: Contact PRos (maybe even start with alumni) in your field of interest and ask for 30 minutes of their time. A conversation over lunch can give you insight into how to better prepare yourself for a career in that field and again, will help you make connections. After all, PR is all about the relationships you can build.

Keep up on industry news: Read trade publications and blogs about public relations and get the PRos perspective on public relations.

Talk to your profs: Yes, we have connections. And yes, we can help you. I promise.

Welcome!

New diggs for a new idea.

Much, much more to come for my students at the University of Oregon, students of PR across the world and students of life.

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