Frustrated with ability to get media coverage after disseminating news release after news release, I had a new client ask me what media is looking for. First and foremost, I recommended she develop a media strategy. Working with the media needs to be planned, supported, and executed as carefully to meet your goals. Access to the media is limited to those stories that the editors deem significant, interesting, and new. Therefore you must continually search for new ways to make his or her story seem new and interesting.
When you have a story that you think will interest a journalist, be prepared to tell that reporter three things as succinctly as possible: 1) what the story is; 2) why the story is significant; and 3) how it can be independently verified. (In other words, do not make the press rely exclusively on your word.)
In general, reporters look for stories that meet the following qualities:
- Timely information: make sure your information is of current interest to the public.
- Local interest: Be sure that the story you are telling matters to the newspaper, radio or television stations audience. Localize the story you are telling to increase its meaning and significance to the audience.
- Human interest: Seek out the inherent emotional element in your story
- Conflict: Reporters are eager to cover stories where there is inherent conflict; where there are two different forces pitted against one another.
- Celebrity: For better or worse, the public has a certain fascination with people and things that are famous. Never underestimate the compelling power of local celebrities.
- Uniqueness: Emphasize any quality in your story that marks it as unusual or out of the ordinary.
- Credibility: Reporters are especially concerned about the credibility of the sources they rely on for story ideas. Make sure that your information is absolutely accurate and that independent sources will corroborate any questionable details.
If you understand that the media are looking for stories that fit exactly these qualities, it will be easier for you to package your messages so the press can serve its audience and you will advance your media goals.