Arrgggghhhh ... That Is Not News
Every day I get posts from news outlets about what they think we want to read as ‘news’. I put news in inverted commas because I think most of the time the media are so desperate for survival they are pumping out whatever they can to hold our attention even if it is mindless and fake news.
Some of the rubbish dressed up as newsworthy is appalling – who really needs to know about twin sisters who have plastic surgery to look more like each other or a snake who swallowed a dog or how curvy Queensland girls are more likely to find love?
How about the endless stream of posts about celebrity mums who have their figure back or who Tom Cruise is now seeing or what the throne on Game of Thrones is made of. Do I really need to know that…do you? I want to know about inspiring people, ways to be healthier, how political decisions will impact my family, and other things impacting my life.
Watching Anchorman 2 over the weekend really drove home how distorted our definition of news has become. There was a scene where Ron Burgundy, in a frantic bid to win the ratings game, airs live a high speed car chase. It’s a first for the TV news team and to keep interest high, Ron embellishes the story. The news director walks in shocked ‘don’t you see what he is doing, we don’t have story so he made one up’. The program director says ‘you can’t do that!’ But they did and the segment won the ratings battle.
So it is not about informing, sharing information of value and substance; it is just about the ratings. While Anchorman is a satirical look at broadcast media, it sadly reflects the state of 21st century news. We are more likely to watch when it is something messy and tacky – a bit like watching an accident, you don’t want to but you can’t look away.
For the small business owner looking to get some free publicity, how do you come up with newsworthy stories the media will love while maintaining your dignity? Remembering what you think is important is very different to what is newsworthy. If you stick to these top 5 things that are consider newsworthy by a journalist, you should be able to find something in your business worth pitching.
1. Conflict: Everyone loves a story about conflict – you might disagree with a new piece of legislation that will impact your industry or your have a competitor using toxic chemicals in products, share your opposing view.
2. Localise your story: Make you story relevant to where you live, the impact it has on the people in your area. You can even take a national story and highlight how it impacts your city or town.
3. Highs and lows: maybe you have something that is the biggest or smallest or you’ve helped someone go from 120kgs to 80kgs. The media loves stories of people overcoming adversity and extremes. Perhaps you have taken your business from near bankruptcy to turning a healthy profit.
4. Surprising or novel: Have you uncovered something unusual, surprising or unexpected? Does your office work differently to most (remember the movie Internship – Google’s work space was very cool) or do you offer unusual work arrangements for your people?
5. Giving. We all love a story of selflessness and generosity. Are you working with a local charity, hosting an event, or sponsoring an educational program?
There are plenty of other ways to get in the media, I just beg you to keep it real. Whatever approach you make stay away from tacky and pointless. You do have good stories in your business. Take the time to get to know the journalists you want to target and slow and steady will win the race.