If you’re having trouble getting publicity, you may not be using the 5 rules that always get people interested in a story.
Journalists are often accused of telling lies. Sometimes they do stretch facts to make a story more exciting. But when putting a story together a journalist will always consider whether it contains T.R.U.T.H. This is an acronym that spells out 5 elements – anyone of which can make a strong story. But when all 5 come together they make a fantastic story. When pitching to a journalist it’s important to think like them and frame your story around as many of these 5 elements as possible. So let’s go through the T.R.U.T.H. one letter at a time and see how you can turn your story into something a journalist just can’t ignore.
T is for Topical
The first T is probably the most important one for most small businesses. It stands for topical.
You may have noticed that the big stories get covered by all the big media channels, be they newspapers, TV stations, radio stations or online platforms. That’s because the news media is not often that original and all jump on the same bandwagon, covering the same story from different angles in a frenzy until the next story comes along. There’s two basic types – unplanned or unexpected events such as a big tragedy like a plane crash, or disease outbreak, or a big scandal like a married celebrity cheating on their partner; and then there’s planned events like the Olympics or a Royal Wedding. You can use both to your advantage.
Because everyone’s talking about the same thing, the media are always looking for new angles on big stories to make them stand out. For example, they often commission correspondents to offer analysis on the situation or find an exclusive interview with a new eye-witness to a tragedy, and columnists and bloggers will all write their own thoughts on what’s happened. After a while it can become a real struggle for journalists to keep coming up with new stuff.
One example is a frustrated TV correspondent who had to resort to interviewing the guy who would clean the horse shoes for the parade at Prince William’s royal wedding because his channel had requested a new piece from him every day for a month leading up to the wedding day.
So if you can offer a fresh angle on a big current story there’s much more chance of you getting noticed by a grateful journalist and getting a mention or an interview in the media. If it’s a big upcoming scheduled event make sure you get your press release distributed early – at least six weeks in advance of the event, especially in the case of magazines. Here’s another of our blog outlining an aspect of this strategy in a little more detail
R is for Relevant
The ‘R’ is all about relevancy. By this we mean make sure you’re pitching to the right media outlet. It’s important to know what TV shows, newspapers, radio stations, websites etc. the audience you want to reach are consuming (here’s a blog on how to do that). It’s also important that you know the style that each media outlet has. For example – a local paper or magazine is much more likely to run is story if it has some kind of local interest. So think how you can work your story so it is relevant to the media outlet and that media outlet’s audience.
U is for Unusual
The third letter ‘U’ stands for unusual.
It’s a business cliche that you have to offer a unique selling point or USP. There’s an element of that when getting publicity in the media. Unusual is the lifeblood of the press. The classic saying in media training is ‘dog bites man isn’t news, man bites dog is news’. So have think – is there anything unusual about your story? Perhaps if you’re launching a product it’s the biggest, first, smallest, or last example of something in the world. What makes your story stand out?
T is for Trouble
The second T in truth stands for trouble. Journalists love trouble. If you think about the news, the vast majority of it is about things that have gone wrong in some way; whether it’s people telling lies, crimes being committed, or accidents happening. Even if things go right, there’s usually someone being interviewed about how the situation may go wrong at any moment. So think about how trouble can feature in your story. You might think that your story is positive and you don’t want to skew it negatively. But perhaps you’re thinking of launching a new product which you think is going to disrupt an industry. Not being shy about the revolutionary affect a product will have will certainly get a journalist’s attention. For an example of a disruptive company using negative news to grow its business look no further than the taxi app Uber – whose press releases around the London Taxi drivers’ strike led to an 850% jump in signup to its services.
It’s unlikely most of your stories are going to feature trouble on this scale – but the Trouble can also encompass controversy and, by extension, controversial statements. If you can reveal a commonly held fact to be untrue, that’s going to get a journalist’s attention. For example imagine that a florist conducted a study showing that men think about flowers twice as much as women – that’s going to get a journalist to sit up and pay attention. So think about how you can make your story seem controversial.
H is for Human
The final letter in our TRUTH acronym is H and it stands for Human or Human-interest. Every journalist loves a human-interest angle to a story. It’s how they are coached to write or present their work. If you watch the news, many stories focus around an example of one family’s or one person’s experience. For example in the aftermath of a flood, a reporter will speak to one guy inside his ruin of a house, knee deep in water, explaining how his life was ruined. Only after the human interest angle has been covered will the reporter go into the facts and figures of the flood itself. Journalists know people empathise with people and stories – not with facts and figures. Audiences are emotionally led. So what is in your story that has a human interest angle? Maybe two people fell in love (or divorced!) or went from rags to riches whilst creating a business. Perhaps a celebrity endorsed your product, or your business accidentally solved a crime? Maybe it was when recovering from a life threatening disease that you came up with the idea for your business? Whatever it is, adding some kind of human interest angle to your story will go a long way to helping it get noticed.
If you found this article useful, you’ll love our free 4 part video series training that shows you how to get the media’s attention and build your brand. To get that click here.