A Good Story Is ….A Good Story

I’m under fire again this week, in a friendly-sort of way, from colleagues at the local Rotary Club.

As appointed Press Officer (my background makes this a given) members frequently urge me to get us into the papers.

Why no mention of our £200 charity donation to the local hospice? Or the President’s Evening which was “thoroughly enjoyed by all”  And what about next week’s membership ‘award’ for long-service. Why isn’t the local paper sending a photographer?

My answer, in an equally-friendly sort of way – is to explain that its not actually a good story. 

Believing the contrary is a common misconception amongst many in organisations, charities – and very often within the business community in general.

It does no harm to think what they do deserves greater credit and recognition. Sometimes they’re right. But the mere reporting of the fact doesn’t make a good story. Not one that many journalists would consider worthwhile, anyhow.

So, what IS a good story in mediaspeak?

It’s the biggest, the smallest, the unusual, the unexpected, the unlikely. It’s the oldest, the youngest, the bizarre and the unexplained. It’s controversy, opinion.

It is one that prompts a reaction (for or against). It’s a snippet of information you would pass on to others by way of entertaining conversation.

Funny or serious it must also be of interest to those not directly connected to the source. 

And don’t forget good stories should involve people and (or) consequences & outcomes.

Finding an ancient Chinese vase in the attic is good. Who found it, how & why made it better.  £50m at auction turned it into national news. Now all we need is an expert to declare it a fake!

The best tip for those wanting to attract a journalist’s attention is to think about what they themselves read, watch on TV or listen to on the radio.

Which are the headlines that attract them to read on or keep watching & listening? Think about why is this so.

And, at all times, try to think as an outsider looking in. Which, afterall, is what journalists are. Just outsiders, looking for a good story to tell others.

To be honest,  I’m not really concerned about the local library opening a new crime section or that the head librarian (an old battleaxe) has completed 35 years in post.

But I am keen to know which authors are currently banned from the shelves (controversy).

I raise an interested eyebrow at the fact that the level of unpaid fines has now reached £100,000. But it turns into a really worthwhile story when the council says it’ll be chasing up all offenders (consequences).

And if the library staff  embark on a fund-raising event – then I suggest a two hour sponsored shout (get it?).  Far better than sponsored walks which are now so commonplace that they have almost lost any newsworthyness.

What you say and do may get noticed & quoted because of  who you are or who you work for.

Gerald Ratner (of crap jewellery fame) found that out.  And what  if the Archbishop of Canterbury announced he was spending Christmas in Barbados……or the local RSPCA Inspector admitted cats are a damned menace.

There’s no ‘trick’ to attracting extra media coverage.  But some understanding of the media’s daily mental process certainly helps – if only to curb the unfortunate habit of pestering the life out of journalists who’re looking for a real story.

Where Journalists Find Experts

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