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“So What?” How to Make Your News Exciting

by Guest Contributor on April 21, 2010

What’s your Addams Family moment?

There is a dreaded situation that every public relations professional has experienced. We get a call, and our client excitedly says “my company is rolling out an updated version of our product, and we want a story in the top publications!”

Or, perhaps a business owner phones up and breathlessly notes, “I have a great story to tell – I built myself up from nothing, and I’m now highly successful. Let’s do a press release about it.”

Image: doozzle’s Flickrstream, Creative Commons

This scenario is dreaded because it’s the most common mistake organizations make when it comes to sharing their information: falsely assuming that others care about your stuff as much as you do.

The public wants to know, what does this do for me? To put it bluntly – who cares?

That’s not to say your information isn’t exciting, and that you won’t be able to get attention for it. While some items are rarely of interest outside the company (low-level staff changes, for example), often the key to attracting notice is in how you package it.

All public relations efforts should communicate the answer to the question: “So What?

Have an Angle

If you have a new product or service, what “pain” does it address? In an example from the advertising world, the Snickers candy bar brand doesn’t communicate about caramel and chocolate, they instead focus on hunger with slogans like “when you’re hungry, Snickers really satisfies.”

What need does your product or service fill for your target market? Focus on that, rather than the offering itself, and you’ll attract more attention from both the media and your customers.

Consider the Reader

Thanks to the many online channels at our disposal, you can now communicate directly with your customers without relying on the traditional media. Always important for media relations, the question of “what is news” now has an impact across many channels.

Interestingly, experience communicating directly with your target market can be a boon to your media relations efforts, since journalists have always written with their readers (read: your customers) in mind. Now, you’re speaking the same language.

Whether you’re posting something to your Facebook page or sending out a press release, keeping the “so what?” question in mind can help with you success in all communications.

Stories of Interest

Once you’ve identified your angle, employ these time-tested formats to present a more interesting story:

  • A case study – Also known as a “people story,” identify how a person used your product or service to better their life or business. Telling the story from a human point of view makes it much more relatable and appealing.
  • A feature article – Because their numbers are shrinking, journalists today are under tremendous pressure to do more with less. If you can provide the entire package around a compelling story, you’ll greatly increase your odds of getting coverage.

Have a unique angle, and connect all the dots by providing backup research to support your idea. In addition, offer the contact information for spokespeople at other companies that relate to the story – this is a huge time-saving benefit to the journalist.

In our example above a rags-to-riches story – in and of itself – is not unusual enough to warrant attention.

Find what elements of your story make you especially unique, and then find two or three others who can say same thing. Pitching this “package” to the journalist (the one that’s the best fit) will work much better than communicating your story alone.

  • A trend – The trend must be new and not widely reported (for example, using social media is no longer a trend), but the media love trend stories. For example, if you’re hiring local employees, find a few other businesses in your area doing the same and – as suggested above – deliver a package of information to the media to help them report the trend.

The key is to step outside of your own shoes and look at your information as an unbiased observer.

What would make you want to read more about the story you have to tell? Offer that information, and you’ll truly stand out.

What do you think? Have you seen or used any of these techniques to attract attention?

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Kellye Crane is an accomplished, award-winning communicator with more than 20 years of experience in strategic public relations, social media, and marketing communications. An in-demand speaker, Kellye addresses the intersection of social media and PR on her Solo PR Pro blog, which serves as a resource for those working as independent consultants — and those who’d like to be. She’s frequently listed as one of the top 100 PR pros to follow on Twitter.

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