Determine News Value:
Media outlets often have different criteria for determining what is and isn’t worthy of news coverage and commentary. Stories are generally built around the following four elements:
- Audience appeal and relevance to readers and listeners
- Issues that stimulate debate, controversy and even conflict -- in short: drama
- Stories that generate increased readership and high ratings
- Fresh angles, important developments and new twists for an issue that will generate and sustain public interest
One way to determine what is "news" in your community is to read the daily papers, watch local newscasts and listen to the radio. At the local level, the media often focus on community celebrations, personalities, politics and daily events. Pay close attention to what type of events and activities are covered and look for any local or regional connection that you might leverage. This will help you become a better judge of what will interest the media.
Media Tip: Write Your Own Headline
Journalists often have too much to do and not enough time to do it in. Figuring out why something is newsworthy before you reach out to a member of the media will help you "sell" your views to reporters. Ask yourself what the headline or sound-bite is for the news or commentary you plan to pitch.
Craft Your Message:
Three keys to success in dealing with the media are: consistent messages, repetitive messages and memorable messages. As you identify timely and newsworthy topics, review your coalition’s mission statement or objectives for ideas about how to craft your messages. Remember that your media messages should be clear, concise and easily repeatable. Summarize your entire message in fewer than 20 simple, easily understood words for print media and fewer than 10 seconds for electronic media. You will need to support your messages with simple statistics, dates, figures, events, names, colorful examples and/or personal experiences.
Some useful questions to consider while developing newsworthy messages include:
- What story do you want to tell -- and to whom?
- Why should people care? How does the issue affect your audience?
- Is there a local angle, personality, group or event that makes the message more timely and relevant?
- How can you state your ideas in a fresh way? What interesting facts, examples or stories will help illustrate your messages?
- If there is more than one audience, how should the messages differ?
- What are the challenges? What negative or inaccurate information must be overcome?
- What are the likely rebuttals? How will the opposition respond?