There is a question every company needs to ask before issuing a press release or a pitch: “Why should I care?” Or more accurately, “Why should readers/viewers care?”
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.
Before you send out that next pitch I encourage you to think about this alternate set of who, what, when, where and why questions:
1. Who cares? Who does my news impact? This should be apparent in your news item, and it should be a major consideration in your choice of media outlets 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 his readers.
2. What do they care about? How does the news impact the audience? If your new technology will help a busy CEO save time, money or both, highlight that up front—not the fact that you created the technology.
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 prevent nail polish from chipping, women will only care about it when it is available. 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 a national magazine will run a product review of an item 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 audiences, 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 chip-proof product is great, but what’s even better is the fact that it can save women one hour a week at the manicurist and $20 in manicure costs. Say the product makes polish lasts three weeks. In this case, a woman would save 35 visits to the salon over a year, giving her almost an entire week’s worth of free time and an extra $700 in her wallet. Now that is something to care about.
Before you hit the send button on your next news item, take a moment to step out of your shoes and into the readers’. Think about how your news impacts them on a larger level, and be sure to highlight this information. More important, 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.