Some of the most diplomatic moments of my career are when I have had to gently manage the expectations of an overly excited principal or client who believes they are sitting on a huge news story. Sometimes they genuinely do have something exciting to share or an idea on how to generate some buzz. Still, most of the time, I have to gently redirect their enthusiasm by either reframing their idea or flat-out explaining why something isn't going to make it into the New York Times or Journal.
So what is newsworthy? Let's first discuss what typically isn't.
(Note: for the sake of brevity, we are not discussing your goals for media attention or the audience you are trying to influence or how it ties into your business objective. That will be a future post.)
Old information is generally not news, especially if it has already been announced. Taking a meeting or hiring someone typically doesn't garner much buzz. Going to a conference, you get the idea. Use this exercise - if you are meeting someone for the first time at a cocktail party and explaining your "news" to a stranger, what is their response?
Now that being said, this is communications, after all, so there are some caveats to the above. Many organizations benefit from local and regional media that are looking for interesting local content. Sometimes, what does not make it into the top-tier press plays much better locally or with an industry journal.
So, what is newsworthy? Main elements include timeliness, human interest, celebrity, the bizarre, and a few others. My preference is to focus on trends and data.
So what's trending in your neighborhood, city, state, or country? Does your organization lend itself to commenting about or supporting this trend? "Trend jacking" could take the form of an op-ed, letter to the editor, or pitch. And I hate to use this word, but "listicles" are popular all over.
Alternatively, the trend can be harnessed as an event or series of social media posts. Slap a visual on it, and maybe you can generate some welcome attention.
Data is also very, very popular. Does your organization have access to interesting data? Can you anonymize and create data on your customer base? Think about stories you see that mention the "busiest travel day" or "shopping day." These stories always do well. So what data do you have access to, or what data can you build using your customer base? Can you send a survey or think of another way to generate stats?
Food for thought: "National Pancake Day" is always a top trending topic. Always.