Monday, February 27, 2012

Newsworthiness: Lessons from First Year PR Writing

Right now I'm in the middle of my first PR writing class, ever. So far its proven to be challenging, but in a good way. My professor is Dale Wilcox, who actually doubles as a PR pro when he is not molding minds in AP Style. Lately, he's been assigning us to write short news stories in 5 paragraph pyramid style. That is; lede, quote, transition, quote, followed by the last important details. But along with trying to make us cut down the information we're given to what is most important, Prof. Wilcox also urged us to keep in mind: is it newsworthy?

So what is newsworthy, exactly? Below is what I've learned from News Writing & Media Relations:

Timeliness: Did this happen recently? Is it still relevant? Pitching a story to a reporter from 2 weeks ago doesn't exactly make a lot of sense, so make sure you're keeping the timeline of your story in mind when pitching to media.

Proximity: Will this affect your readers? Say you are pitching to a local newspaper in Philadelphia, will a car crash in Phoenix, Arizona make much of a difference to your readers' life? Probably not, so consider this when pitching your story.

Prominence: People love a tragedy. Chances are, people are going to pay more attention to the death of famous person than a farmer. But just like before, while the death of a farmer might now be international news, it will likely affect the farmer's local newspaper, maybe even make the front page.

Novelty: Is there anything unique or quirky about your story? Anything that deviates from normal, i.e. 3 headed cat, will prove to be newsworthy because its something that will surprise readers and encourage them to pick up the paper.

Weather: Weather trumps everything. Natural disasters will always affect a large portion of people. Therefore, a storm will be more newsworthy to a larger population than the majority of local news.

Always keep in mind who you're pitching to, and consider, as Prof. Wilcox likes to say: "We're here, you're not, so here's what's happening."

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