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Hughes blog post: What is news? Part Two

4 July 2011    

Last week it was all about how to identify a story and this week looks at how to make sure that story hits the headlines.

“In the case of news, we should always wait for the sacrament of confirmation.” Voltaire, French writer and philosopher, 1694-1778

The most professional of journalists will always want to double check their facts and as a result the news they cover will be evidence-based and the numbers will tally, just as you would want them. Is your story based on facts and not just hearsay or opinion? Is it a thinly veiled sales promotion masquerading as news? Consider the follow up questions that a journalist may ask; are your spokespeople aware of all the facts and key messages? Are there skeletons anywhere on your premises that could end up stealing your intended headline?

"There is no such thing as national advertising. It's one man or woman reading one newspaper in the kitchen or watching TV in the den.” Morris Hite, Former Chairman, Tracy-Locke, 1910-1983

No matter how many millions of newspapers are printed or how many TVs are on, the reaction to your news will come from individuals. Will the average person at home understand the facts and figures behind your news story? Will they empathise with the subject? Are they the type of people you most want to start a conversation with and is this news your number one choice of topic?

“The one function that TV news performs very well is that when there is no news we give it to you with the same emphasis as if it were.” David Brinkley, American newscaster for NBC and ABC, 1920-2003

Broadcast news provides quick updates and results whereas print news explains the updates and results. TV presents a moment in time built around video and interviews whereas newspapers are more able to present the whole story, its impact and may add opinionated comment. Newspapers can be read at leisure whereas a broadcast piece is issued in concise soundbites designed to fit a rigid timeframe. The mediums appeal to different senses so a story with striking audiovisual content may feature prominently on broadcast but be relegated to a side column in print. And time is of the essence for all news outlets but even more so for broadcast. If a story has already made the newspaper that morning, the broadcaster will be looking for a new angle or a new story altogether.

“Television saved the movies. The Internet is going to save the news business.” Matt Drudge, Editor of the Drudge Report, 1966-present

In a rapidly evolving technological world and with the ever-rising expectations of news consumers, trends and editorial direction in news reporting are in a state of flux. PR consultants, especially those with a background in journalism themselves, are best placed to advise on using these trends to the client’s advantage. What may be an ‘out there’ concept today may be standard PR practice next week, so take a risk!

"If I was down to my last dollar, I'd spend it on public relations." Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft, 1955-present

Clients employ PR counsel to help advise them (in part) how to pitch to the media and so should listen to that counsel. Otherwise why spend that dollar? In fact, if spent wisely that dollar will allow clients to concentrate on the day to day operations of their business leaving the experts in the media field to identify news opportunities, discover hidden opportunities, and pitch stories at the right angle to the right journalist at the right time for maximum exposure and return on investment.

- Hayley Burwell

Check out Part One here!