Making A Compelling Pitch: Find Your Story

chuttersnap-kDDHfgS7Gjo-unsplash.jpg

I know what it’s like, spending hours re-wording subject lines, proof-reading every word, and ensuring your media list is big enough and targeted enough. Yet, how much time do we spend trawling over the content?

For all its mysteries and preconceptions, PR is can be a relatively straightforward business – you just need the right story, for the right audience.

Do that and you could land a spot in any top publication

Your story needs to have some news value. The most common reason a pitch fails is that the story simply isn’t strong enough. This does depend on the publication you’re targeting but it’s worth considering in more depth, the worthiness of what we are pitching. It might be worth having an internal benchmark to weigh your story against before thinking about pitching, it may save your reputation among journalists. 

Some studies that analyse news trends over the years, have shown that there are ‘values’ that help journalists decide on whether or not to run a story.  The news we receive is not always based around what we individually feel is truly important, but rather what fits with the agenda of the particular publication and in-short the stories they think their audience would be interested in.

I’ve recently come across the Ten News Values as put together by Tony Harcup and Deirdre O’Neil in their 2001 publication What is News? Galtang and Ruge revisited. These values are a great bar to weigh your stories against, to ensure they are newsworthy

  1. Magnitude: How BIG is the story? Is it UK wide, or the global stage?

  2. Relevant: How relevant is the story to the publication you’re pitching to? To their viewers, readers and/or listeners?

  3. Power elite: Does this story involve royalty, politicians, ministers, lords, police, lawyers, any authorities or organisations that have power?

  4. Celebrity: Is this a well-known face or someone who is an icon? Someone readers will recognise and will want to know more about?

  5. Entertainment: Will this amuse listeners/readers/viewers? Does it break the monotony of everyday life? Is there a picture or a clever, funny headline that will make people laugh?

  6. Bad news: How will this affect people? Is there a conflict? Do you have dramatic pictures?

  7. Good news: Do we have a hero? Does this make life noticeably better?

  8. Surprise: Does your data or story make me say “I never knew that. That’s amazing!”

  9. Follow-ups/Anniversaries: A year since… five years since… what’s happened in between? What’s changed? What’s happened to people involved? Do you have before and after images?

  10. The news organisations agenda: “We have a liberal/conservative/professional/working class/well-educated history so this sort of story plays well with our readers/listeners/viewers.”

This list is a great start to ensuring your story has news value. Some other considerations I have found to be useful are:
Is the story TOPICAL or TIMELY?

Keep a look out for breaking news stories - does your organisation have a unique point of view on this topic? Or an expert in the field?  Do you have something you could add to offer a greater perspective of the story? It’s great if you can get ahead of the game on this one, and try and plan your news stories to capitalise on what will happen in the next year

What is UNUSUAL about this story?

A good story is different, or a first; people haven’t seen or heard it before. Is there an unusual or unique angle or aspect to your story? 

Is there any trouble, tragedy or triumph over tragedy that would add TENSION?

A lot of journalists try to keep impartial. A story from an organisation usually only gives one point of view. Some journalists will enjoy a story where they can act as a ‘champion to the people’  and ask “Who would oppose or challenge your story?” Work one step ahead and make it part of your story.

Where is the HUMAN INTEREST?

This is my number one! Real news is created by and affects real people. Celebrities will of course attract media’s attention, but real people, who have done something heroic or extraordinary, or even those who just have an interesting story to tell are just as good, and in fact, sometimes better! Consider pitching a case study or interview instead of the news story. If their story is strong enough, it will carry you through!

As long as your story has one or more of the above, it is much more likely to be of interest to the media