Newsworthy: What makes a story worthy of the news?

Crisis Communications

A newsworthy story generates massive pickup throughout the media. ‘Viral’ would be another word that can be used in place of newsworthy.

In the field of Public Relations, there is one cardinal rule; whatever steps you take in creating spin or buzz, it has to be picked up by the press. All the PR in the world won’t do any good unless people get to see it. Here are the five most important traits in ensuring that your PR efforts are reported far and wide

The key ingredient when it comes to the public relations industry is creating newsworthy campaigns which connect with a lot of people. When it comes to getting a good story out there, this relies on the PR company having good relationships with media outlets and their journalists, along with persuasive pitching. However, those two things can only get a story to an audience to a certain extent. The rest is up to the story itself.

The role of the media outlets is to talk about current events and stories that are going to inform, interest or affect an audience. If a PR story doesn’t fall into any of those categories then the brand needs a better story, because no journalist is going to want to tell an audience about something completely irrelevant which has no value for them.

While there’s no need to include all of the points below to create a newsworthy PR campaign, it still needs to encompass at least one of them. However, keep in mind that the best campaigns tend to include two or three of these points.

Makes the Audience Care

The most valuable tool when it comes to creating a newsworthy PR campaign is knowing the audience and what it wants. This might sound fairly simple, however, it’s an often overlooked aspect. What the journalists are most interested in is giving the audience a story that is going to resonate with them, whether that’s for information or simply for entertainment.

That’s why it’s always important to ask why the audience should care about the story or the campaign, as this reduces the onus on the media outlets, who are under an increasing amount of pressure to share relevant, popular stories to their audiences in the hope that they will engage with their brand.


How newsworthy a PR campaign ends up being also depends a lot on the timing and whether it’s presented in a timely manner. No one is interested in a story that is already old news and has been heard a hundred times over. This means that if a company is announcing something important, it’s crucial to get that story out quickly.

Shock Value

Usually, the most successful stories are the ones that get a strong reaction from the audience – the most common emotion in these stories is shock. So, remember, the stories that get the most, as well as the biggest headlines, are the ones that are the most surprising.

Future Impact

Another way to make a PR campaign a big newsworthy story is to consider whether the story, or even the campaign itself, is going to impact or shape the future in any way. Sometimes, when a story isn’t that relevant to the present, it’s still shaped as being relevant or important if it’s going to be important to the future – whether that’s to the future of a business, or the subject that’s being talked about, or even the reader.

Make it Relevant

No one wants to read a press release about old news, and in today’s fast paced, 24/7 news cycle, news gets old much quicker than it used to. To guarantee that your efforts are part of the news media’s discussion, you have to be relevant. It’s easy to be the story when a crisis breaks and you or your client becomes the story, but a large part of non-crisis-based PR is finding a way to make an announcement relevant to the current news.

Keep it Short

No one in the news media wants to read a 200-page treatise on “Bikes in New York City.” If you want coverage of your public relations campaign, then make sure all press materials are short, sweet, and to the point. Ronn Torossian stresses using a quick, attractive headline, followed by short summarization of the facts and short, powerful, easy to relay quotes from important subjects related to the article. Doing the reporter’s job for them increases the likelihood of having the press cover your story.

Spread A Wide Net

Never assume that a story will be picked up on its merits alone. Just because a press release is sent to the New York Times, doesn’t mean they’ll report on it. Make sure that all press materials are sent to every press outlet available, even the more uncommon ones. The more outlets you inform, the higher the likelihood that it will be carried by some of them, and the more that carry it, the wider it will diffuse, and the better the chances it will be picked up by other news outlets that didn’t report it the first time around.

Be Ahead of the Pitch

Whether it’s good PR or bad, it’s vital to be the first one to get your side out on the story. News can grow legs of its own, and take off down the street before you have a chance to weigh in. Never hold back when you can be ahead of a story, and make sure it’s your spin that the media is using. Which brings us to…

Control the Spin

The “spin” is an industry term for how a series of events is interpreted. Five people seeing the same situation take place could have five different notions of what happened. The “spin” is what the media, public relations firms, and individuals put on an event to direct it to the interpretation that they want others to see. Controlling the spin is critical when handling a public relations crisis. If you control the spin (which is easiest if you are the first out on a story), then you run a much better chance of ensuring that you control the media cycle, and the story you want will be the one carried.

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