Insider Look: What Journalists Look for when Writing Stories

Every business owner wants to know how to get journalists to write a story on their business. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula that reveals how a story gets on the news or in the newspapers, but there are guidelines that can increase your chances for coverage.

The approval process in news is extremely subjective, just like any other profession involving creativity, opinions and experiences. During my time as Executive Producer with NBC in New York, I approved story ideas from reporters, publicists and producers.

Sometimes, stories were approved but later killed for various reasons, while other times, I had to kill a story because it lacked visuals or was outdated.

So how do you get journalists to cover your business? Here’s a general rule of the approaches our firm continues to take with our campaigns. These tactics are derived from my time inside the media.

Focus and Clarify your Pitch

The more you clarify and focus your pitch, the better odds you have of getting a journalist to write about your business. With our firm, we narrow every campaign down to three words. Yes, it’s difficult, but it helps everyone pitch a focused story.

But all success comes down to the story idea. You can have a focused pitch but if the story is not interesting, you are wasting your time.

Finding a unique angle is not as difficult as it may sound. Open your mind to timely events that impact and influence sales of your product or service. If you own a fashion or jewelry store, try to link your product to high-profile events like the Academy Awards or the Grammy Awards.  If your business is geared towards a niche audience, like traveling business executives, scan the headlines in the business sections of various newspapers for possible tie-ins to current events.

The Definition of Newsworthy

Not properly defining the story is one of the biggest mistakes most publicists make. Your success with journalists depends greatly on how well you define that story because in many cases. We only get one shot at pitching your story idea. 

You can focus your story by understanding and applying the five W’s (Who, What, When, Where, Why and How).

  • What is this story about? 
  • What is unique about it? 
  • What is different? 
  • What is the conflict? 
  • What is the story you want to tell? 

By identifying the “What” you will have an edge in pitching the story because your story idea will be more focused.

The Fundamentals of Journalism are Rooted in PR

Where is this story taking place? Does the location have any value or importance in the community? A diner in Iowa has little national news value, unless it is a Presidential election year when all of the candidates are pressing the flesh with patrons over ham and eggs. Take a moment to examine your entire surroundings before pitching the story because you might uncover something that increases the value of the story idea.

All of these questions will make your story timely and increase the value of your story. After you identify why your story is important to the public, you have focused your pitch down to the core and uncovered why your story is newsworthy.

The more you understand the definition and value of “newsworthy” the better chance you will have of getting media coverage for you or your business. In the case with MACIAS PR, our strategy is straight from the editorial newsroom.

ABOUT Mark Macias

Mark Macias founded MACIAS PR in 2009. Marketing peers named MACIAS PR the Best Strategic PR Firm while Finance Monthly named us the Top PR consulting firm. City & State Magazine also named Mark Macias a Top 50 Political PR Player in New York. Click here to learn more about our NYC-based agency.