Every day, in every city of the world, babies are being born. It’s truly a monumental event in lives of the parents and grandparents, relatives, and close friends of the family. Yet, unless it’s the offspring of a major celebrity, we don’t see a lot of news media coverage when a child enters the world. The press simply doesn’t consider run-of-the-mill birth announcements to be newsworthy.
It’s a similar situation for business owners who have a major development or special event at their companies. Perhaps it’s the opening of a new branch, maybe the company has its 25th anniversary coming up, or maybe an “exciting” new product offering or service is about to be made available. Bursting with excitement, the business owner contacts the local daily paper with the news, only to receive stark disinterest and maybe a consolation-prize suggestion that the item be submitted to the local “business happenings” page.
The problem is that journalists and editors make decisions based on the interest of their entire audience. Time, space, or journalistic resources are limited. Any report on one topic means that something else won’t be covered. Sadly, what may be of great importance to a specific business may not matter much to the public at large. Take heart; it’s not that your “baby” isn’t special. It’s just that so many folks already have their own equally marvelous “babies”.
This isn’t to say that businesses can’t make news—and in a good way, rather than the 60 Minutes investigative-report kind of way. If the story meets certain criteria, media outlets are likely (though not guaranteed) to be interested. If you think you have a story that deserves press coverage, try evaluating it against the following considerations:
- Timeliness – News is something that just happened—or is expected to happen in the near future. There’s simply too much going on in the world every day to reach back for a story. The facts of an old story may come up again as background for another article, but a news item’s “sell-by date” is a brief window of time.
- Impact – To state the obvious, an occurrence or development that affects a lot of people is more newsworthy than one that affects just a few. It’s psychological: the larger the number, the more likely the audience is to imagine themselves being affected (e.g. “There, but by the grace of God, go I.”). Impact on a smaller number of people may still make the story worthwhile, however, if the effect is particularly significant or unusual (e.g. things that make you go, “Hmmm.”).
- Proximity – The local angle is big, especially if it’s a source of community pride or concern. However, the connection may not always be to the immediate area but could be cultural, emotional, religious, financial … etc. For instance, the press in a small town might pay more attention to a professional sports team on the other side of the country if one of the star athletes hails from a nearby high school. Or a community largely comprised of Cuban-Americans might be keen to keep up with news about Havana.
- Notoriety – Some people are only famous for being famous—with publicity feeding ever more publicity. This kind of news sells papers and magazines, attracts Web page hits, and gets ratings. There’s no real logic to the phenomenon, that’s just the way it is. Unless you’re Elon Musk or a Kardashian is one of your customers, however, notoriety isn’t likely to come into play for your business stories.
- Human Interest – These stories often defy the conditions required for regular news articles because we can personally identify with the subjects. Human interest stories usually elicit an emotional response—making us feel happy, sad or inspired.
Frankly, there is no constant, objective standard for any of these considerations. What one reporter or media outlet will find newsworthy, another may scoff at. Whether a story gets picked up is also a matter of what else is happening at any given time. Relevance to the audience will be the key consideration. But if you can clearly explain what makes your story newsworthy when presenting it to a news outlet, you may actually have some news coverage coming in your company’s future.