As the editor of a media company, I receive my fair share of pitches. Within any given week, I receive hundreds of emails from people or Public Relations (PR) professionals asking if I’m interested in publishing a story. A good majority fall into the category of clever disguises for advertorial/paid content, some just make me wonder if the person pitching has ever been on the site, much less read an article we’ve published and a small hand full, actually hold my attention. They’re what I call the diamonds in the rough.
Over the last three years running This Woman Can, one thing has become glaringly clear: most people don’t really understand what constitutes a newsworthy story. When people ask me to clarify what I mean, I ask them: why should I publish this story today or even this week? More times than not, the silence is deafening over the phone or they simply never reply to my email.
First of all, I totally get it. As someone who’s worked in PR quite a bit over the last two or so years, I know what it’s like when you’ve got a client who truly believes they have a newsworthy story. Or worse still, the client who feels they’re entitled to coverage in top tier media without wanting to put in the work to get there. Nothing is worse than that sinking feeling of pitching something you know isn’t going to get published (and for the record, these days I simply refuse to pitch content I don’t believe in). Learning the ropes in PR, I’ve had some truly horrid encounters with people who don’t seem to understand that I don’t control the news cycle and at the end of the day, whether something gets a run or not, comes down to an editor who is not me. So I empathise with PR representatives stretched to the max.
So what factors make something newsworthy?
Again, why should the media consider running your piece now? People want to read stories about things that are current and relevant… not about something that happened last month. In today’s fast-paced digital world, news becomes dated very quickly. Think about the Australian cricket ball tampering scandal that engulfed the country and parts of the globe a few weeks ago – that seems like a distant memory now.
The number of people impacted
If an issue impacts one or two people, while it may still have significance, it is not as significant as a story that will affect large amounts of people. When pitching a journalist, they’re always going to think about how many people are likely to care about and actively discuss the content on-hand.
While Aussies find news happening Down Under incredibly interesting, it’s likely that those overseas won’t find it nearly as engaging or relevant. It’s not rocket science. A story about a local woman winning an award in the tough business climate might appeal to a local newspaper but that same story is unlikely to generate traction at a national level.
You know how a lot of people are following every move Prince Harry and Meghan Markle make in the lead-up to the royal wedding? That wouldn’t be happening if we were talking about Harry and Meghan from down the road planning to get hitched in an outback town in Australia. Famous people get traction simply because they are famous and that makes people interested. The higher your media profile, the more chance you have of getting media coverage.
Are there exceptions to the above? Yes, of course! Every editor and every media outlet has a different view of what makes something newsworthy. I know that with This Woman Can, we don’t cover stories about women simply because they’re famous… that’s not what we’re about. Our editorial hats make decisions that often go against the grain in terms of the media and we’re proud of that. We’re also looking for people who are saying something different (in a good way) to what’s been out there, doing the rounds.
If you’re pitching to media, always take a step back and consider whether something is newsworthy (to someone who’s not you and completely in awe of your business or whatever you’re doing). When in doubt, seek out the help of a PR professional who can help you to hone in on what will give you the best chance of getting published. Or at the very least, someone who’ll be honest with you and say you don’t have a story that will interest media. And remember: listen to their thoughts and respect their professional opinion!