You need a news hook
To get the media’s attention, first you need a “news hook” as in: “Why should I care about this now?” This is a concept some people have trouble grasping and I’ve had various conversations where people think the media will pick up things without a hook. As a totally made up example: “Oh, little Sally has gotten really good with her hula hoop. That would make a good news story.”
No, no it wouldn’t. Now, if little Sally just got an award for her hula hooping, or she was about to break a record for longest consecutive time swinging that circle around or the youngest person ever to try to break a record, then you’ve got a news hook.
You need a strong lead
The first paragraph or two is/are the lead of the story. The “who, what, when, where, why and how” (the five Ws) need to be there along with some, hopefully, compelling language or storytelling. It should contain the most important part of your story. Failure to do so is called “burying your lead.”
In particular, newspapers want stories told in an “inverted pyramid” style. Let’s say you sprinkle your Ws throughout the story and the editor needs a shorter piece–you could end up with some vital facts in the trash. By front loading all the important pieces of information and then elaborating on them in later paragraphs, editors can run the entire piece or just those first couple of paragraphs without having to rewrite the article, (some of them hate doing the extra work) and can trim it to what fits their needs.
Proximity also matters, with local outlets more likely to pick up a story than one further away, depending an a story’s importance, of course. A case in point, I had an interview with our local radio station on Monday (see below) and I may have another one in Santa Fe on Tuesday. The LA Daily Post has run the story but I’m not sure if the Los Alamos Monitor will.
Will an Albuquerque outlet pick up the story? Less likely but you never know when a slow news day will hit (if there’s less to chose from on a particular day, they’ll run with things they’d normally pass over) so I sent it to them as well. You never know.
Advertising vs publicity
Advertising and publicity are two very different animals. Something might appear in the same outlet, say, a newspaper, so they might look like the same thing to those on the outside but there is a different dynamic at work on the inside.
Advertising is a contractual agreement with the media outlet where money changes hands and the advertiser has control over the content, how big or small that content is, how many times it’s run and (usually for additional money) where the ad is placed. (Full, back-page ads on magazines are more expensive than most internal full-page ads for reasons of visibility, for instance.)
Publicity, on the other hand, is completely voluntary on part of the media outlet, they can run or not, edit it down to the lead or run the whole thing–and sometimes more. It’s up to them. Publicity is “free” that is, I don’t pay to get my article printed, but I lose all control over it.
You can view the news release here: PR5_16_14Metric pdf.
I’ve got to continue refining my presentation for Wednesday, so I’m going to go work on that now.