Not every action is a news story. You may think what you are doing is important but editors/news outlets decide on certain specifics, to decide if what you are doing is news.
How to make it newsworthy
- Something different: nuns hold up a bank to fight for cleaners pay (true story).
- Controversy: children sleeping in bathtubs because of overcrowded housing (another true story).
- Relevant: their readers love your issue.
- Topical: everyone is interested in this thing right now.
- Real people: emotional response, adding depth to a story. This is usually our strongest link as our relationships are with real people.
- Being first: the first group to achieve something is news, the second is not.
- Statistics: people like some hard facts and comparisons.
You needs to tick at least two of these points to become a story. Think creatively about how to turn your action into news.
Get your press release to the media one week before the action. This means journalists can attend, or get the story out the day it happens.
Stories close to home often have more relevance to most people’s readership. Use your knowledge of local issues to make sure your story is relevant to local, as well as national press.
The number of people affected by the story is important. An issue affecting thousands is more newsworthy than one that affects a handful.
Celebrities get more coverage because they are famous. Is there a celebrity attending your action (you can stretch the word celebrity to politicians). Try to get names people recognise showing up to your work. Do you have celebrities living in the area? How can you make it their interest to show up?
Journalists need to put a human face to the facts and figures. Can you provide them the people who are most affected?
Building relationships with the media
Just like the relationships you are building with people on the ground, you need to build relationships with media folks. Sometimes it is not the top editor but their assistant that you build a relationship with. They help you to get a cup of coffee with the editor.
There will be journalists more sympathetic to your work than others. If you get your piece in a left leaning paper, great, but we are singing to the choir. We need our messages across a broad body of outlets.
Once you do get some media attention, keep a record of their contact details and build up a book of relationships. Follow them online, research who they follow and what their interests are. If a journalist has covered you in the past and you have a juicy action, repay them by giving them the first scoop. Trust and relationship is key in this work. And, unless you really have that relationship, treat ‘off the record’ as always on.