Here are a few examples of what journalists don’t find worth covering but companies frequently want them to cover:
- News that has already been announced and reported in the media is no longer news and will not capture journalists’ attention.
- The activities of a small privately-held company are usually not considered newsworthy to the national business media. We are often successful in getting start-up company clients covered by the media despite this, but the way we do it is to de-emphasize the company and pitch its activities as part of a new trend, or to demonstrate that it is developing earthshaking new technologies, or to position it as a threat to large and well-established companies, or to offer the CEO as an expert who has the credentials to comment on something currently in the news.
- Just because something is an important issue does not mean it is newsworthy, as Brad Phillips points out on his blog, Mr. Media Training. For example, the growing number of parents who choose not to vaccinate their children is an alarming trend and an important issue. But it’s been written about from various angles for a number of years, and isn’t newsworthy. An outbreak of a devastating disease like polio in the U.S. resulting from this trend, previously believed to have been eliminated from this country, would be newsworthy.
- The visit of a company CEO from abroad is not newsworthy unless the company has major business interests in the U.S., or has an announcement to make that will affect Americans. This is a situation we sometimes face. We are asked to set up a round of business media interviews for the visiting head of an overseas client company. Even if the company is fairly sizable and well-known in its own market, without a real presence in the U.S., journalists won’t have much interest. However, if the company president gives reporters news (that hasn’t already been announced) about a new plan to build a plant in the U.S., for example, or a new partnership with an American company, they’ll be very interested.
What’s Newsworthy, What’s Not
- Conflict is newsworthy, especially when it first appears. Peace and harmony are not, except for the exact time when they bring an end to conflict.
- Scandal is newsworthy. The juicier the better from the media’s perspective. Awards for good behavior are not.
- Surprises are newsworthy. Expected outcomes are not. The media give more time and space to a company that misses or greatly surpasses earnings projections than to a company that meets earnings projections.
- Lies are newsworthy (or rather, catching well-known or high-up people in lies is newsworthy)
- Announcements that have local impact are newsworthy for local media outlets. In many cases the definition of local is very narrow. Recently we approached news outlets in various Connecticut towns about the debut of a national company in the Connecticut market. Most of the media we spoke to at the small town news organizations told us they would only cover news related specifically to their own towns.
It’s natural to feel that the activities of the company you work for are important and to lose perspective on whether they’re of interest to the rest of the world. One of the advantages of working with a public relations firm is the more objective perspective that the agency PR team can bring to a company.
We’re paid to advise clients and develop workable strategies for their public relations efforts. It’s always a better use of our services and a client’s budget to ask us how to reach a particular goal rather than tell us what tactics to take to achieve that goal. Our collective years of PR, journalism and marketing communications experience will save a lot of money by preventing wasted efforts to build visibility!