Evaluating Your Worth (in the Eyes of the Media)

Marketing | June 4, 2019

Whether you have an in-house public relations team, outsource to an agency, or manage your organization’s PR on your own, media relations are an essential part of any comprehensive marketing plan. Positive media relations can yield high-return results—the media can lend credibility to your brand, encourage top-of-mind recall, and put your name in front of people who would have never seen it otherwise. Unfortunately, earned media is not guaranteed to be positive—and pitching certainly does not guarantee coverage. At Archer & Hound, we use the elements of newsworthiness to estimate the potential success of a story and guide our hands when developing topics to pitch to local, regional, and international media.

 


 

THE ROLE OF THE MEDIA

In the beginning, the word “media” referred specifically to printed newspapers and books, but the definition has expanded to include a variety of radio, television, and digital outlets. This transition has resulted in the globalization of media—today’s news travels around the world instantly, and that lack of delay has both advantages and disadvantages. The entire world may have the opportunity to see a positive story about your organization, but it is also very difficult to contain anything negative. Word truly travels fast.

According to the Global Ethics Network, the role of the media is to be a watchdog to protect public interest against malpractice in business and government and create public awareness. The media has been referred to as the fourth pillar of American democracy, along with the legislative, judiciary, and executive branches. The media is not out to ruin you, but it’s not their job to promote you, either. Their role is to provide information to the public—but because they also need to profit, the information they provide must be capture the interest of the public and meet their audiences where they are, hence the transition from newsprint to the web.

 

MASTERING MEDIA RELATIONS

Experienced PR practitioners know that by establishing the right news angle and pitching strategically, news coverage can be obtained. Behind the scenes, wheels are turning and pencils are scratching, transforming story ideas from drab to fab in order to catch the attention of the right reporter. Relationships have been built up over time so that when the PR person reaches out to the media with a new pitch, reporters are more likely to open the email or answer the call. These relationships are built on a foundation of trust—a reporter’s favorite contacts send them exclusively high-quality stories, where important details are clearly stated and errors have been eliminated.

Simply put, reporters are more likely to take on your story if you do the leg work for them by preparing news releases, photos, videos, interviews, and talking points in advance. Interviewees should be media-trained and prepared to answer any pertinent question. At Archer & Hound, we advocate treating media contacts like our best clients, consistently proving ourselves a reliable resource in the field.

 

8 ELEMENTS OF NEWSWORTHINESS

At the end of the day, what you think is important regarding your business may not have the same value to the media. When a reporter or staff member is evaluating a story to see if it belongs in the news, they measure the story against this criteria—which means you should, too. Before you try to garner any hits in the media, reassess the story you plan to pitch and make sure you’re meeting as many of the newsworthiness standards as possible. Remember that modern news outlets have limited time and space—your story is competing against any number of other newsworthy pieces, and your goal is to stand out among the clutter.

 

1. Timeliness

Media moves fast. The media is a lot like a bakery: fresh bread gets stale quickly, and so does news, which means news needs to be current in order to be relevant. This also refers to tying news into timely holidays or occurrences, like promoting a toy collection near Christmas as opposed to Halloween.

Question to ask yourself:

“Is this story happening now?”

2. Proximity

If something is happening close by, your audience will be more likely to pay attention. A nearby event will impact the audience more than something happening in another state or country. Capitalize on the local angle and take advantage of natural community interest.

Question to ask yourself:

“Is this story happening here?”

3. Prominence

Well-known people, places, and events are more newsworthy than people, places, and events your audience has never heard of. Celebrity naturally lends credibility, even if it’s just a local figure making an appearance. Long story short, names make news.

Question to ask yourself:

“Does this story involve someone famous, semi-famous or important?”

4. Controversy

The media loves to get the scoop on scandal, and they will consistently report on controversy and conflict—just look at election season. It wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if everyone constantly agreed or no one ever uncovered dirt about an opponent.

Question to ask yourself:

“Is someone in the hot seat?”

5. Oddity

Anything unusual or novel can be newsworthy. In this age, however, most people have seen it all before—a squirrel on waterskies may be cute, but it just isn’t that crazy these days. Focus on what sets your story apart from similar occurrences.

Question to ask yourself:

“Is this story different or bizarre?”

6. Interest

If a story tugs on your heartstrings, it can be considered newsworthy. Consider the human angle; the media wants to tell stories about the human condition because the public loves to get glimpses into the lives of others. At the same time, make sure you’re clear about why anyone should care about the topic.

Questions to ask yourself:

“Does anyone care? What’s in it for the audience?”

7. Consequence

The number of people involved in or affected by an event can often dictate newsworthiness. A 99-car pileup has obvious consequences, but sometimes, the effect of a story may not be so obvious. You may need to be the one to establish and clarify why this story impacts your audience.

Questions to ask yourself:

“So what? Why does this story matter to the public?”

8. Hot & New

You can capitalize on current trends in the media by paying attention and pitching a story idea at the peak of fixation. Seek out connections between your business and the trends. For example, if the media can’t stop talking about rain, and your organization manages flood control in your area, you have the perfect reason to pitch a story about how to help prevent floods in your neighborhood.

Questions to ask yourself:

“Is the media obsessed with this topic?”

 

TO PITCH OR TO DITCH?

These elements are the ruler by which we measure potential pitch topics. If your story does not measure up, it’s not worth pitching. There are other outlets that are more suitable for sharing these kinds of stories—social media, blogs, or even a text to friends and colleagues would each be more appropriate than pitching a story with no substance. You’ll lose credibility with reporters by sending a subpar story idea, and in the process, you could jeopardize future news coverage opportunities.

Before you throw away your story, though, try approaching it from a different angle. Focus on making the information as helpful to the public as possible and find popular, relevant tie-ins to reference. If it still isn’t meeting the standards of newsworthiness, it’s probably time to move on to your next idea and develop it into something amazing.