In our busy world with its rolling 24/7 news cycle – and information flying left and right – content marketers need to understand how journalists think so they can generate coverage for their content. Unfortunately, creating content that looks good and reads well isn’t enough to guarantee placement in top publications or popular blogs. You’ll need a robust content plan to stay a step ahead and enter the mind-set of a journalist. To determine if your content is newsworthy, look at the elements a journalist values in news.
Is the content relevant to what’s happening in the world today? Journalists are bombarded with press releases all day, every day, so unless they can find some sort of relevance in that content, they’ll have no interest in putting their by-line on it. So content marketers, next time you’re brainstorming ideas, look at the world and what’s happening in it.
When it comes to newsworthiness, journalists are always mindful of impact. The more people affected, the bigger the story. They want to write articles that get people talking. Content marketers should bear this in mind when producing work. Think about the number of people a piece of content will affect. When pitching to journalists, include this information. If the journalist knows a particular piece has a large following – based on a survey you have done, for example – they’ll be more likely to express an interest in it. If there’s an audience for an idea, there’s an audience for the final piece. This guarantees views, which of course benefits both the news organisation and your client.
Content that involves well-known people or institutions is worth a line of print and a moment of air time. If a project involves a well-known client, include that in the pitch to the journalist. Big organisations and names are more likely to pique interest in the work.
The drive to be first with a newsworthy development remains embedded in the culture of newsrooms and in the reporter’s psyche. In journalism, breaking a story involves covering something that hasn’t been done before. If content marketers can offer content that is unusual, chances are the journalist will be all ears. Bear this in mind when developing content, and ask yourself how you can make it stand out. Think about producing something original – or putting an unexpected spin on something that has already been done.
Occasionally, a long-simmering situation will emerge as the subject of discussion, which is why it’s important to keep up with the news. If content marketers can shift focus in this way, journalists might well decide to revisit the topic proposed. A good example of this is Mental Health, which for so long was ignored. Lately however, news publications have been covering all aspects of it, featuring everything from personal stories to interviews with experts. With this in mind, be ready to act when the spotlight shifts to such a topic.
Sometimes, a journalist will feel compelled to expose a situation – so capitalise on this when it arises. If you’re dealing with a disclosure that’s in the public interest, stress this when pitching the content. Offer the journalist an exposé that he or she will feel obliged to explore. This way of thinking is also important when developing content. Dry content doesn’t fly, but content with a specific message usually receives great feedback.
Keeping these news values in mind when developing content will result in better outreach. If you can give the journalist something that’s timely, has a message, is unusual or different, your little book of reliable contacts will rapidly grow. In the words of renowned American journalist and editor, Burton Rascoe, “a news sense is really a sense of what is important, what has colour and life – what people are interested in”. It’s really that simple.
– This post was written by Emma Vince – former Digital PR Lead at Tinderpoint.