5 Ways To Ensure A Newsworthy PR Pitch

5 Ways To Ensure A Newsworthy PR Pitch

Ambera Cruz
26 February 2014
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When was the last time you opened a news app and found a story that simply didn’t fit with all of the other articles or the publications overall stance? The answer to this question is – or should be – never.  News outlets, like all media, have one job: to deliver content that’s relevant to their audience. In other words, they choose the stories that are newsworthy.

One of the biggest disappointments for a PR pro is seeing a campaign fail. Doing your homework and making sure your story and its accompanying PR pitch is newsworthy to the audience – both reader and journalist – is the most important step to ensuring PR pitch success.

PR Pitch Success Criteria

A newsworthy story is one that is interesting enough to warrant publishing. Editors and producers look at the stories pitched by PRs with an eye towards newsworthiness, evaluating submissions based on a version of the following criteria:

  • Timeliness: Is the story new/ current? No one enjoys reading or writing about old news.
  • Proximity: Does it impact me? Stories in our own back garden are more interesting than stories that happen 10,000 miles away since the content becomes a little more personal.
  • Prominence: Who’s involved? Celebrities, politicians and business leaders are interesting to readers.  If they’re involved in the story, you probably have a slam-dunk win.
  • Conflict/ Incompetence/ Scandal/ Shock Value: Is there something shocking or scandalous in your story? If you’ve read a tabloid recently you know this rule well; like it or not, conflict is almost always newsworthy.  The old adage “If it bleeds, it leads” didn’t happen by accident.
  • Future Impact: Will this news shape the future in any way? More often than not, a story fails the timeliness test but still gets a pass if it has future importance to a company, person or other subject matters people care about.
  • Human Interest: Human-interest stories are the newsworthy wild card. A story can fail all of the above, but win based on human interest.  After all, everyone loves a heartwarming story! You’ll find this often the case when cats are involved.

Image result for cat stories

“A story doesn’t need to include every point above to be newsworthy, but it will need to nail at least one.  The best PR pitch usually includes 2 or, more likely, 3 of the above.”

The Relevance Test

Knowing what a journalist is looking for in a story is half the battle.  The other half is putting the story through what I refer to as the “relevance test.” A journalist’s newsworthy test tells them if the story is right for their publication/ audience. The relevance test tells PRs if they will pass/ the likely hood of receiving an editorial mention.

Testing for relevancy does require objectivity. You’ll need to remove yourself from the mindset of an employee or agency PR rep and put yourself in the shoes of both the journalist and the reader. Pretend you know nothing of the story or the related company and evaluate your PR pitch based on the following 5 criteria.

  1. Test 1: External Relevance: Is your story interesting to people outside of your company?Too often employees enjoy hearing about developments that are not too exciting for those who are not employees.
    How many times have you had a co-worker come to you with an idea for a press release that you knew wouldn’t work? Just like you are forced to explain to that same co-worker that their story isn’t worthy of a press release, you also need to be honest with yourself about whether your own story is PR pitch worthy.
  2. Test 2: Personal Relevance: Would you read the story?This is the easiest test of the bunch. Simply ask yourself: if your story were to run, would you read it? If the answer is no, abandon ship!
  3. Test 3: Customer Relevance: Does your customer need or care about your story?If the answer is yes, proceed. But do so with caution, remembering that just because your PR pitch is relevant to your customer, doesn’t mean it will pass test 4 or 5.
  4. Test 4: Journalist Relevance: Will journalists find your story relevant?The above question can easily be answered by monitoring previous stories the journalist you’re pitching to has written.As you build your media list, think carefully about every person you add. Learn our top tips on building the perfect press release that will get you press HERE!
  5. Test 5: Media Relevance: Does story you’re pitching fit within publication you are about to pitch to?On the surface this may seem simple, but in truth, it can get complicated and will force you to think about your story and pitch objectively. Obviously, you wouldn’t pitch a celebrity story to TechCrunch; technology stories belong in TechCrunch. However, that doesn’t mean that they will cover EVERY tech story.You need to decide if you have the type of story that they tend to cover and this will take a bit of research on your end. Use a media monitoring tool like Meltwater to uncover trending story themes per publication, allowing you to see if your PR pitch is similar to their usual stories. You can also see which stories rank well via SEO by quickly googling the publication’s name. Just as we’re interested in boosting our SEO ranking, publication are too. If your PR pitch is on a similar topic that has driven a lot of traffic in the past, you have a better chance of landing coverage!

“Just like a journalist’s newsworthy test, your pitch doesn’t need to pass every relevancy test. At a minimum, I would recommend that it pass tests 1, 4 and 5.”

Putting the Tests to Use in Two Steps

Start by crafting your PR pitch messaging with an eye towards the newsworthy test a journalist will use to evaluate. Once you’ve crafted the story and feel you have passed the newsworthy test, put your story through the relevancy test. Decide if your story is worth pursuing (test 1-3), and then decide whom to pitch at which media outlets (test 4 and 5).

Is this a ticket to guaranteed success? No, of course not. In PR you need to be ready for rejections. Will this test and the research and prep work it requires reduce your rate of rejection? Yes, it will. Do your homework! Journalists will appreciate the effort and your success rate will improve.

Want to learn more about finding the perfect journalists to pitch to, optimising PR outreach, tracking press coverage and measuring PR ROI? Contact us via the form below and we’ll get in touch!