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What Makes a Good News Story?

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When telling a news story, choosing the audience wisely is as important as the writing itself. Not all audiences will want to read all news. This has always been true, through the many eras of news. However, with the current flood of information and availability of news anytime and anyplace, it is especially important now. Ask yourself these questions before you even pitch a story. Who are my readers? Who is going to care about this story?

Once you determine your audience, you can start to research publications that are relevant to that industry or vein of interest. Avoid sending your press release to every publication you can think of. For example, if your story is about an office remodel that caters to the work habits and needs of Millennials, you wouldn’t pitch the story to Cat Fancy or The New Yorker. It may take some time to find the appropriate publications, but the leads you discover will be far more qualified than sending your pitch to as many publications as you can without doing research.

Another facet of news is relevance to current trends. It is a difficult task to create a buzz about something – better to ride the tide of another trending topic or collection of stories. For example, in the above story about remodeling an office to appeal to Millennials, you may use references to research done by larger companies such as Apple or Google that state the importance workplace satisfaction plays in productivity. You could even relate the story to studies that have shown that inactivity leads to health problems – the newly remodeled office provides employees with areas that promote physical activity and thus wellbeing. This is where you get to be creative and perhaps learn a bit more about the story yourself. Doing some research into the topic can help you make relevant connections that will be very effective in relaying the importance of your story.

Even after you do your research and create connections to relevant, trending topics, your story may not be viable. In the current information atmosphere, people have access to so much news that it is increasingly difficult to capture their attention. The 24-hour news cycle has yielded to an even more rapid moment-to-moment news cycle, so trending topics can appear and become obsolete in just hours. Appealing to emotions helps, great quotes help, relevance to trends helps, but ultimately the often fickle audience of today decides what is going to be newsworthy. Reporters and news outlets are forced to keep up with their ever-changing tastes.

Despite the challenges you face with pitching your story to the media, don’t be discouraged and don’t take it personally. In the event that your story is chosen for publication, the resulting piece is extremely rewarding after the obstacles you’ve faced in today’s news environment.

Pinstripe Marketing offers public relations as one of our many services. Public relations is one aspect of a complete marketing strategy – we help create pitches that tell the story of your brand. Check out the below links for more advice on what makes a good news story.

What Makes a Story Newsworthy?

The 11 Things That Reporters Consider Newsworthy

Presenting Your Expertise to the Media

public relations pr expertPublic relations and publicity aren’t the same thing, but they are definitely intertwined. The public must first know you exist before it can have an opinion about you. One of the best ways that professionals can be introduced to a large audience is as an expert in their industry. And for credibility’s sake, it’s best if that introduction comes from an unbiased source … a news media outlet, for example.

If you’ve hired a good PR agency—or a marketing firm that also provides well-coordinated PR services in addition to other promotional strategies—they should discuss setting you up with their media contacts as a resource for news stories covering your industry. But absent professional marketing assistance, there are a three things you can do on your own to position yourself as an expert in your field.

Be visibly active in your community. This boils down to the dreaded ‘networking.’ Join your local Chamber of Commerce or other business organizations and take an active role. Offer thoughtful, well-expressed opinions in friendly discussions when it comes to topics related to your business. Even more importantly, if your industry has a professional organization with a chapter in your area, be sure to join and work to take a leadership role. Then, if a journalist begins asking around for an expert to quote, your name may come up. And certainly, anytime you meet members of the media, give them your card and let them know you are happy to help answer questions relating to your field.

Utilize social media to establish a public presence. Blog, tweet, or have a Facebook page that speaks to issues in your industry (without an overt sales pitch). In addition to being a resource for your customers, delivering information in this way will help set you up as a public expert. First, if a reporter googles an expert to contact, your name may show up in the search results. Secondly, doing these things on a regular basis will force you to pay attention to the latest developments in your industry, so you can speak knowledgeably if an opportunity presents itself. And finally, expressing yourself through social media provides practice organizing your thoughts and speaking on the record.

Share story ideas with the media. Don’t confuse this with a press release for your business. Instead, if you see something happening in your line of work that strikes you as unusual and may be a cause of interest (or alarm) for the general public, contact the news editor of your local paper or TV station and let them know what you’re observing. (For example: You’re a CPA and you see a lot of your clients having trouble with tax information related to Obamacare.) Be concise, to the point and clearly explain why the phenomenon might be worthy of news coverage. Even if you don’t get a bite on that particularly story, there’s a chance your name could be remembered for some other article in the future.

The most important thing in becoming a resource for professional expertise is to be available. When a reporter calls you will need to answer, or if you are just too busy to break away at that moment you must return his call within a few hours at the most. Chances are that journalists will be facing a tight deadline, and they aren’t going to wait around long before moving on to someone else. And if you aren’t there for them when they need you, they’ll be less likely to come back again.

Also, if you are quoted in a story, don’t nitpick over trivial matters regarding your exact words. Yes, if you’re misquoted in a way that makes your published statement substantively incorrect, bring it to the reporter’s attention. However, if her transgression is that you said “fast” and she wrote “quickly,” let it go. And anytime you’re reasonably pleased with a story in which your expert comments appear, send the reporter a note congratulating her on her fine work and letting her know how much you enjoyed participating in their work. This way, reporters will remember you as someone they enjoyed working with.

Keep in mind that you won’t become a media-recognized expert overnight. As you may have noticed, there is a lot of groundwork to lay, and frankly, a good bit of hard work. But the good news is that once you’ve reached “expert” status, opportunities to increase your professional profile will increase exponentially with every public appearance.

Six Steps for Managing Your Business’ Online Reputation

St. Petersburg online reputation management

There was once a time when you could have a bad day, justifiably lose patience with a customer, or unavoidably fail to deliver as promised, and those rare transgressions would be little noted nor long remembered. And anyone making it his life’s work to badmouth your business was readily identifiable and had to back up his accusations, meaning the occasional crank was easily recognized as such by the public.

Those days are gone. Now, thanks to Internet, every alleged flaw in your products, services, or business operations can be logged with anonymity and then recalled by everyone—indefinitely besmirching your organization’s reputation.  What can a conscientious business owner do? Here are six relatively easy steps to help protect your brand from online mudslinging:

  • Find out what people are saying. It may turn out that the Internet barely knows your company exists (that’s a different issue) but it could also be that nearly every reference to your business comes with a negative connotation. You really won’t know unless you do occasional web searches using different engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo … etc.) to find your company’s name. Helpful Tip: As you type your business name into Google Search, see how autocomplete tries to anticipate your next few words. If words like ‘rip-off,’ ‘scam,’ or ‘rude’ show up, then you have a big problem!
  • Automate searches and alerts – The Internet never sleeps, but fortunately you have some tools available to keep watch over the Web even when you do. RSS feeds and Google Alerts can be set up to let you know anytime your company gets an online mention.
  • Look out for impostors – Masquerading as someone else online is ridiculously easy to do. A virtual ‘doppelganger’ can call itself by any name it chooses and, by lifting a few online pictures, can present itself as anyone. You can make sure no one is passing himself off as your business by taking a few unique images from your company’s website or social media, and running them through Imageraider.com to see if they appear anywhere they aren’t supposed to be. Also www.knowem.com has a tool to let you know if your social media name is being used without your knowledge.
  • Be the first, best source of your own information – Keeping your website up-to-date and filled with lots of client-pertinent information helps ensure its prominent place in search results. Construct your site to anticipate common inquiries by including pages for careers/jobs, locations, news, headquarters/contact information and coupons/offers/discounts. Also, a company news section or blog—with new content added frequently—will help keep your site at the top of search-engine listings, well above any potentially negative content.
  •  Don’t let negative publicity or complaints fester – When you see something negative about your company—possibly in an online review or even an interactive forum you set up yourself—respond quickly. However, you must take extreme care to be polite (no matter how unreasonable the charge) and make it clear that first-class operation of your business is top priority. You may not always be able to smooth the ruffled feathers of the complainant, but you can still impress others with your thoughtfulness. And if your business did make a mistake, own up to it.
  • Make online reputation management (ORM) someone’s responsibility – Some things just have to be done—like cleaning restrooms or emptying garbage.  The easiest way to make sure the necessary ‘housekeeping’ gets done is make ORM monitoring apart of the ongoing job duties of someone within your organization.

Nobody’s perfect, and where criticisms are justified, take them to heart and make corrections. As always, the best defense of your reputation is to be as good as you can be in all aspects of business operation. As long as you’re doing that, your risk of being widely maligned is relatively minimal. As for unhappy instances that still might arise, just remember: negative information might not ever go away, but it can be overwhelmed by enough good works to make isolated bad reports very insignificant by comparison.

Related Posts:

The Positive Side of Negative Comments

Ginger Reichl Discusses Online Reputation Management with 8 On Your Side 

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Writing a Compelling Biography

Writing a good biography

If it hasn’t already happened—don’t be surprised one day to have someone ask you for your bio (e.g. short biography). Employers often want them for the “About Us” or “Our Professionals” sections of their web sites. Bios may be needed for a press release announcing an important new hire. Meeting planners ask for bios of important guests or speakers at conventions and conferences. If you have your vital information on hand and ready to go at a moment’s notice, you’ll earn the sincere appreciation of a lot of people … and may save yourself some embarrassment.

You see, people very rarely write their own bios. Composition is usually left to a marketing professional. Often authors know nothing more about their subjects than a few scraps of provided information. And ‘scraps’ is an accurate description. It’s not unusual for copywriters facing a fast-approaching deadline to cobble something together from a LinkedIn profile, a Facebook page and—if they’re lucky—a hopelessly out-of-date resume. If you want your story told straight (and in a pleasing manner) give your biographer something good to work with.

Key Information

There are different types of bios (technically, an obituary is a bio) but most are going to be career-related, so that’s what we’ll discuss here. To make your story interesting, the writer will want to create a compelling narrative. Much of the needed information will be simple facts, but portions may be based on your feelings. Here’s a list of potential ingredients:

  • Full name
  • Current title where you work
  • Birthdate
  • Place of birth
  • College degrees
  • Professional certifications and organizations (officeholder?)
  • Awards and honors
  • Serious hobbies and charitable work
  • Names of immediate family members
  • List of employers (with dates), titles and primary responsibilities, and notable accomplishments
  • Your ‘claim to fame’ (in what aspect or aspects of your profession do you specialize)
  • What motivated you to enter your line of work
  • Career goals—immediate and long-term

Not everything on this list is likely to be included in any particular bio. If it’s going to be one of many in a document or on a website, having uniformity in length, design and content will be an important concern for the composer. Items like hobbies and family member names, therefore, are usually the first things to be cut. There may be a ‘lowest common denominator’ effect as well, where if one person is missing a relatively unimportant bullet, that same bit of information may be deleted from everyone’s bio. Still, it’s always better to have the option of including any of these points of interest. If you provide this information, any competent copywriter or journalist should be able to construct a tidy narrative of your career.

Writing Your Own Bio

There’s a saying that if you want something done right, do it yourself. If you have confidence in your writing skills, have at it. After all, no one knows you as well as you know yourself.  Just remember, you will want to tell a story—in about 200 – 300 words—that will be interesting to your audience. Here’s how:

Introduce the hero – Give us your name and title up front so we know who to ‘root’ for. Then let us the readers know about your special skills and abilities that you’re going to demonstrate over and over again.

What’s your backstory? – How were you drawn to your line of work? What was your inspiration? This might be a good place to work in your educational background if you attended a school that specializes in preparing students for work in your chosen career field.

Tell us about your journey – How did you become the successful person you are today? List the places you worked (provide dates and titles as reference points) and share your professional victories at every stop, concluding with your current position. Include mention of any awards or certifications that are relevant.

Hint at a sequel – Wrap up with your aspirations for the future.

Whether you write your own story, or see the task delegated to another person, you will want a composition that’s both accurate and truly worthy of you. Taking a few moments ahead of time to list the most important moments and factors in your professional development, will be your best guarantee of having a bio that you’re happy to share with anyone.

 

Tampa Bay public relations

Is It Newsworthy?

Tampa Bay PR firmEvery 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.

Tampa Bay public relations