As a PR agency we are obviously always working with the media to produce the most accurate and positive stories about our clients, this is primarily for two ultimate objectives – to shift the clients’ products off the shelves/make money, and to achieve brand recognition – which usually, with the exception of ego maniac MDs, is to impact objective one.
Some of the most powerful news stories in the nationals have come from PRs simply looking for a hook to elevate a brand they represent and we are always looking and thinking of ways to cut through the competition with regards to this. One of the ultimate PR accolades is to have your copy directly cut and pasted into the newspaper, as you know then that you have more than spun your client’s news story, you have written copy which is perfectly acceptable to be published and of genuine interest to the public. It struck me that there must be a formula (and I’m not talking SEO keywords here, although that might be an interesting topic for another time) which makes one story newsworthy and one not. What strikes human interest in a world where we are submerged in reading and writing from the moment we wake up? – 85% of millennial mums check their Facebook before they get out of bed in the morning. Well, the clue might be in the word news, which derives from the word new… is it as simple as people want to be ahead of the game? I would say, we typically want to be informed (first), engaged and amazed.
According to one journalist (this is actually how we are often directly spoken to as PRs aka naughty children), “Broadly, news stories have two or more of the following qualities: topicality, size, impact (in terms of effect on people), human interest, local interest or an element of the bizarre. A story with all six is likely to end up on the front page: a story with only two might not make the grade. PRs – and their clients – might like to try ranking their “stories” against this list before talking to journalists. It would save a lot of time.”
But surely all these elements broadly come under the “new” umbrella, even with the local angle stories don’t start, “12 years ago this road was built”, unless it goes on to say “and today…..” – Nigel Farage has been getting unqualified column inches recently because he says things that one would not expect him to say, for example with the idea that you should be able to buy the Tower of London poppies on eBay, as when they were sold the buyers we not told that they weren’t allowed to. However you feel about his statement, the opinion is “new”, it exemplifies the ingredients listed above. The reasons why the Mail Online has far far more readers that would care to refer to themselves as “Daily Mail readers” is that amidst the spelling mistakes and prejudice they are quite often the first to get the gossip, and it is often the most sensationalised at that. The reader is bonded with the article as they would be in a gossipy conversation with a friend that starts “between you and me”…. The psychological elements of creating an effective news story is similar, you want your readers to declare the proverbial “ he never!” you want to effect an emotional reaction, a serotonin release with the utterance of “I knew it” , shock, elation or horror, and you want to get there first!