How does a journalist choose what press releases to publish?

Sarah Lee
0 minutes

I talk to a lot of customers these days. It’s ironic (and yet very, very lovely) that SaaS companies (like PingGo) spend so much time speaking with real people, our customers. It seems the more we automate, the more we need to understand the human condition.

So, I was speaking on Skype recently with a chap in Australia. We had fixed on the small window of opportunity that worked for both our time zones (although I had miscalculated and was an hour out so had a bit of a wait!). What struck me about the call was that he is worried about exactly the same things as companies I speak to every day in Scotland, Denmark and Texas.

The question he kept coming back to was: 'There are thousands of companies just like me out there. Why would a journalist want to write about me?'

Well, let me be blunt. Not every journalist will want to write about you. Journalists want very specific stories. They each have a very tiny area of interest – their ‘beat’ – and if you don’t match their beat they won’t cover your story.

When your press release hits a journalist’s inbox they will assess it against a strict set of criteria. If your press release scores highly then it will make it through their filter. So what you really need to know is… how to boost your score.

These are the news values your story will be rated against:

Recency – all journalists want a press release before the thing happens. Not after and definitely not after everyone else has covered the story. Is it new?

Exclusivity – every journalist wants to be the first and only media outlet to cover a story. If they get an exclusive they will rate the story very highly and you can always send it out on general release after the exclusive has run for an agreed length of time.

Size – it matters, it really does with news. The bigger the impact, the more people affected, the higher the price or greater the distance, the higher the news value.

Name – big companies and household brands carry higher value than an unknown name. That’s because more people are affected by news about them. An unknown brand has to work ten times as hard to increase the value of their press release.

People – people love reading about people. Making your press release relevant to your customer – how your company will help them solve a problem they’re experiencing – or showcasing the people behind the company can massively boost news value to a journalist. Remember, a picture of the people behind the story is more valuable than a straight product shot or a library picture.

Unusual – the ‘dog bites man’ story is interesting but utterly predictable. ‘Man bites dog’ (on the other hand) is unexpected and has much higher value. The measure is not how interesting the story is but how unexpected it is.

Educational Value – this is particularly important for business stories. News that makes the reader more knowledgeable rather than just informing them has a high value.

Close to home – a press release about an Australian company has a high value to the Australian press, but is irrelevant to those in London. Audiences relate more to stories that are close to them geographically. So don’t forget your local press.

Currency – what else is on the reader’s mind: what problems and issues are they facing right now that might hook them into your story?

Simplicity – if an eight year old child does not understand your press release – go back and write it again. Before you start writing your press release check the basic story against these values. And then do so again once you have written it, just to make sure you have made it as strong as it can possibly be.

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