Sometimes, the public relations industry has something of a reputation of pushing un-noteworthy stories. Routine price reductions, utterly redundant events and even absurd health claims all rank highly on the bollocks-o-meter.
I know from experience in several newsrooms just how often journalists are inundated with mediocre press releases, half of which come with the subject in capitals for a ‘WIN!! FREE!! SAVE!!’ cheapness.
The art of good PR is not a secret, guarded like a fast food chain recipe. It simply lies in a thorough understanding of how news works.
As anyone who’s had to endure NCTJ exams and 100 words-per-minute shorthand tests will know, a good news story has specific criteria. Failure to measure up will render your PR campaign as engaging as eating a bucket of sand.
News = new
The first of these is a clue in the word itself. You should offer an audience information or insight that they didn’t have before. Repeating others won’t position you as an expert or ‘thought leader’. It’ll position you as a simpleton.
Common as muck?
If you’re planning a stunt or event, make sure it’s not something that every Tom, Dick and News Editor has seen before. There’s only so many venues, but try to get it to include something unusual.
Just don’t set fire to anything or distribute business cards with a harpoon. Trust us, there is such a thing as bad publicity.
Whatever you do must matter to people outside of your four walls in order for it to be a news story. Does it affect other businesses in your region? Is it a potent example of a current issue? If not, keep it to your internal comms.
Pictures really are worth a thousand words
A story about a little girl’s lost teddy bear with a great picture may get a better position in the paper than a piece on a historic building fire without one.
Of the biggest news stories over the last few decades, how many are defined by images? Investing in professional photography, therefore, is one of the best things you can do.
My newsy colleagues and I may have had these points etched into our memories so strongly in journalism training that they’ll remain long after we’ve forgotten everything else. Yet, whether it’s for a brief Nottingham PR campaign or an ongoing national one, the rules of news remain the same.
The ability to recognise a good story doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Then again, if you’re not gifted with the PR sixth sense, there’s always someone you can call…