Some might call me a curmudgeon, but I see my blog posts as more of a voice of reason — albeit a no-holds-barred and sometimes sarcastic voice of reason. The truth is that the things about PR I want to share are the same things that the media has shared with me over my more than 12 years in the industry. For today, this is one simple question: “Why should I care?”, or more accurately “Why should readers/viewers care?”
This is the question every company needs to ask before issuing a press release or a pitch. Because members of the media receive countless news items, they will likely turn a deaf ear to your pitch (and possibly future ones as well) if you send “news” that is not really news or offers no value to the reader. So before you send out that next pitch I encourage you to think about an alternate set of who, what, when, where and why questions.
1. Who Cares? Who does my news impact? This should apparent in your news item and it should be a major consideration in the choice of media outlet to pitch. If your news is only relevant to chief information officers at widget companies, then the business editor at the Wall Street Journal is probably not interested, nor are the majority of their readers.
2. What do they care about? How does the news impact the audience? If your new technology will help save a busy CEO time, money or both, that is what you should highlight up front, not the fact that you created it.
3. When will they care? When will this great news turn into something real? If you are in the development phase for a great new product that may someday make nail polish unchippable, women will only care about it when it is available — so don’t bother calling the beauty editor at Vogue until you have a bottle she can try.
4. Where is this news valuable? In considering the “who cares?” point, you should also think about where the people who care about your news are located. It’s unrealistic to think that a national magazine will write a product review of an item that a large percentage of their readers cannot get. Nor is the business section of the Los Angeles Times likely to write an article about a company based in Dallas that is doing interesting work in New Orleans. Quite simply, if you want local press you need a local hook and if you want national exposure you need a national story.
5. Why do they care? This is the biggie: you need to know your audience, figure out exactly how your news will impact them and spell it out, clearly. Why is this important? Let’s go back to the nail polish company. Their unchippable product is great, but what’s even better is the fact that said product can save women one hour a week at the manicurist and $20 in manicure costs. Say the product makes polish lasts three weeks. In that case, a woman would save 35 visits to the salon over a year, giving her almost an entire week’s worth of new found free time and an extra $700 in her wallet. Now that is something to care about.
So before you hit the send button on your next news item, take a moment to step out of your shoes and into the end readers’. Think about how your news impacts them on a larger level and be sure that this information is highlighted. More importantly, be honest with yourself about the news value of your item. Is anyone really going to care? If you can’t say yes with certainty, it’s not valuable news.