Eight primary factors determine the newsworthiness of a potential story:
- The bizarre
- Human interest
I’ve highlighted what I believe to be the strongest determining factors. Let’s consider them a little more closely.
Impact: Every story needs to impact on someone or something for it to be news. The impact doesn’t always have to be negative, but a journalist will either be reporting on something that has considerable consequences, or they will be reporting on the actual consequences of that something.
Timeliness: News is new. Therefore, the more recent an event, the more newsworthy it is. However, different outlets have different news cycles. For example, news gets old faster when you’re dealing with a daily newspaper or morning show. Weekly papers or monthly magazines are a little more generous about the lifespan of a news story.
Proximity: Yes, local newspapers need local stories, but local can be bigger than we think. For example, when you watch the news and you hear about a bus crash on the other side of the world – the involvement of an Australian can mean the difference between world news or national news.
Proximity is not always geographical – it can also refer to assumed values and interests of a reader. Think niche publications here. For example, a wedding magazine may not have the same scope as The Australian newspaper, but its readers are going to be more interested in hearing from any wedding related services and therefore be more valuable.
Now, your news angle needs to be evident in the first paragraph of your media release…
Who, what, when, where, why and how
… which brings us to the second point of who, what, when, where, why and how.
These questions are entwined with your news angle and ideally you’ll address them in the first paragraph. However, if that’s not possible, move how and why into the second paragraph.
Direct quotes attributed to someone by full name and title
Direct quotes are an essential component of a media release.
When writing a media release, keep in mind that journalists cannot have an opinion. So, if you have anything emotive or opinionated to say, put it in quotation marks, otherwise it will not appear. If using stats, ensure they are fully referenced.
Provide interesting and/or engaging quotes to improve the chances of their use. Speak directly to the reader – write quotes in a conversationalist manner, read them out loud to see if they sound like you’re just speaking.
Direct quotes need to be quoted to someone specifically – you cannot be anonymous, which means you need to provide your last name. Quoting an anonymous source has a negative implication on the story, diminishing trust, credibility and believability. That’s why it’s generally against editorial policy to quote someone anonymous – unless it’s a victim of crime, or you’re a gossip magazine.
High resolution: For print, photos need to high resolution otherwise they pixelate. Around 1MB is best.
Colour: For newspapers, you must have colour photos. No black and white.
Raw JPEG file: The photo needs to be unedited. This means no text, no watermarks, no photo shopping.
Copyright ownership: You need to ensure you have copyright ownership or permission to send the pics to media for publication.
Parental consent: You must have parental consent for people under 18 to appear in pics.
Don’t have any pics? Include the details of a photo op!
Other obvious bits
Date: At the top of the page.
Contact details: In the footer.
About: A short bio (one paragraph or less) that links to a website for more info.
Hot tip: If you don’t have a website, get one because it adds to the credibility of your organisation. Apparently 74% of journalists Google after receiving a media release and no web presence is frustrating.
How can I help?
Jagged Edge Communications offers freelance marketing advice, covering off all things media. Click here for more info