Establishing newsworthiness: the #1 hack to creating unique media pitches

Establishing newsworthiness: the #1 hack to creating unique media pitches

Good public relations starts with giving journalists what they want. What do journalists want? News worth talking about. Here's how to develop better pitches (and stronger journalist relationships) by establishing newsworthiness.

The discourse around media relations has become… tense. Newsrooms and publications are closing left and right, budgets are being slashed, and journalists are moving around more frequently, so maintaining consistent media relations is, well, a bit of a nightmare.

Plus, public relations and communications professionals are under increased pressure to get and maintain media coverage in an environment absolutely overrun with irrelevant garbage. It doesn't help. ​

I can go on and on, but suffice it to say, the relationship between PR and the media is currently quite strained. Here's how to do your part to bring your best pitches forward by harnessing the power of newsworthiness.

Inspiration for this post was largely taken from our PR Roundtable discussion with two lovely journalists about how writers want to be pitched. You can watch the whole thing here, or read on for the newsworthiest bits.

Table of contents

What is newsworthiness?

"Newsworthy" content is content that is of particular interest to readers of a newspaper, magazine, or publication. If something is newsworthy, it's a story. It's timely. It's important and relevant to people outside of your company. The key part here is outside of your company.

Often we fall into the trap of forgetting that the things we care about are not universal. Yes, your brand (or your client's brand) is incredibly important to you. You've invested so much of your time and energy into making it successful and meaningful. You want it to thrive.

Unfortunately, that doesn't make it newsworthy. Unless you work at Google, Facebook, or Amazon, in which case I take it all back. Everything you do is newsworthy. For the rest of us outside of FAANG, however, we have to resign ourselves to the fact that our company name alone will not be selling newspapers anytime soon.

What makes something newsworthy?

Newsworthiness comes from the content having a general appeal to a larger audience. This means you're enriching their lives or entertaining them in some way. 99% of press releases? Not newsworthy.

I know, it's a devastating statistic.

Things that aren't newsworthy:

  • Your brand is releasing a new product
  • You want a backlink/collab/shout-out/mention
  • Your agency restructured, hired a new CEO, or opened a branch
  • Your cat did something cute (may not be newsworthy, but email me anyway)

Interestingly, all of these things get pitched regularly to journalists (except the last one, they probably want more of that). There's an incredible lack of newsworthiness going on in the media pitching world, and those who take the time to really make their pitches newsworthy are reaping the benefits.

Remember: journalists want pitches. Many of them have public email addresses specifically to receive these pitches. What they don't want is promotional, boring content that neither helps nor delights their audience.

Why newsworthiness matters in PR

While the internet has brought forth many amazing things (memes, food delivery, food delivery memes), it has also made PR a lot more complicated. Sure, some things are easier in terms of the tools and resources available. But it's vastly more complicated in the sense that you're vying for the increasingly limited and scattered attention of journalists.

And you're not just competing for coverage with other PR. No, now you have to stand out among a crowd of digital marketers, small business owners, influencers, self-proclaimed thoughtleaders, social media gurus, and more.

And it makes sense, right? In the age of backlinks and Domain Authority, we're all just clamoring to get a little slice of exposure. As we all know, editors – and by extension, journalists – are the gatekeepers of the media. They (largely) get to decide what stories get run and PR pitches are a huge part of how they find and select those stories. This often means that journalists get treated like candy dispensers full of free-exposure candy by people who clutter their inboxes with a bunch of self-promotional junk.

Frontpage, please.

And unfortunately, that's just where we are in 2024. Journalists have been basically begging people to stop spamming them with irrelevant, poorly researched pitches. The average journalist receives hundreds of pitches per day, and every single one of those pitches represents a well-meaning PR or comms person just trying to do their job.

But this whole messy process would be so much better if everyone spent more time researching the journalist/publication, tailoring the pitches, and, most importantly, establishing newsworthiness.

Step-by-step guide to making your pitches newsworthy

So, how can you go about making your pitches more successful by increasing their newsworthiness? Don't worry, I've created this step-by-step guide to help you turn your drab facts into news that journalists are excited to cover.

1. Write down the details

Before you start powering up your journalist-emailing fingers, do a brain dump of the info you plan to pitch. Get it out of your head and onto paper (or, more realistically, a Google Doc). This part is important because it's easier to be objective when you can see it laid out before you. Write down the 5 Ws (who, what, when, where, and why), if that helps.

2. Make a list of the publications you want to pitch

Ideally, this should be a pretty short list. Unfortunately, many folks are treating pitching like a numbers game by buying massive, often outdated media lists and just throwing a bunch of things at the wall to see what sticks. Don't be that guy. Instead of sending your story pitch to a ton of journalists, pick a small number of writers and publications you really want to work with for this story.

It may be a struggle to narrow down your list of journalists, but that's okay! Do it anyway. If your brain dump is too general, then you need to go back to the drawing board before you start pitching.

Realistically, your news is probably only going to be relevant to a certain audience. It's better to try and reach those people through a small number of carefully chosen journalists rather than wasting your time trying to reach everybody.

3. Find a timely hook for each journalist and publication (add newsworthy elements)

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention this process isn't going to be easy. Sorry about that.

The somewhat unfortunate reality of establishing newsworthiness is that it's going to take time. Definitely a lot more time than just forwarding your press release to a bunch of journalists who never asked for it. The good thing is, if you do it right, this method should be far more effective than the "spray and pray" method.

"Hey! Did you get the email I sent you two days ago...?"

So, now that you have your short list of journalists and publications, find a hook. Find an angle that is different from what everybody else is doing. Imagine your story published. What will the headline be? How is this story different from the millions of stories that already exist on the internet?

Why should people care?

Also, why now? Why pitch this story in 2024 and not 2023, or 2025? Make it clear why this information is pertinent to readers in the current climate, quarter, or season.

This part of the process is all about developing empathy and getting in the head of the readers you hope to reach, so think of your story as, well, an actual story. What do they want to read and what can they get out of your story? Alternatively, imagine the journalist trying to pitch your story to their editor. If the journalist, the editor, and the readers don't care? Once again, go back to the drawing board.

After you've fully fleshed out your empathetic, targeted, newsworthy hook, now it's time to put paper to pen (or fingers to keyboard) and bring that idea to life.

But don't press send until you can easily answer the following:

  • Who benefits from this pitch (outside of the brand)?
  • What value does this pitch provide? Is it entertaining, educational, possibly both?
  • How is your pitch timely and beneficial to the reader?
  • What sets this pitch apart from the other pitches sitting in journalists' inboxes right now?
How to do PR outreach (and 10 garbage fire mistakes to avoid)
How to do PR outreach (and 10 garbage fire mistakes to avoid)

You want to reach out to the media but you don't want to look silly by making a rookie mistake.

4. Collaborate with the journalist

Despite all of your deepest soul-searching, you may have missed the mark a little bit. That's okay, because part of being an amazing comms pro is adapting and collaborating with your media contacts.

Establish an amazing relationship with the writers and journalists in your life by being responsive, flexible, and understanding of both their content schedule and their publications. As Holly mentioned in the clip above, not every story will be right for every news outlet. A collaborative, friendly attitude is likely to garner you more coverage than a rigid, sour one. Not to mention, maintaining good media relations is PR 101.

5. Include all the assets to make your news come to life

You want to keep your pitch short, but it's important to include all of the visual and multimedia assets necessary to help your journalist friend bring your story to life. Avoid the hellish back-and-forth by providing a ton of high-quality assets up front, right when you pitch.

Now, this does not mean "include 40 separate PNG attachments to the email." Journalists don't want that. Nobody wants that.

A newsroom or a media kit is by far a better, cleaner, and easier to navigate alternative to ungodly email attachments. Newsrooms allow you to include a simple, minimalist link in your pitch. That way, when it's convenient for them, the journalist can just pop right into your newsroom, press release, and media gallery to get what they need.

We know plenty about that, because that's kind of our whole thing here at Prezly. Why not try it out? 👇

Publish your own newsroom in just 5 minutes

Create a fully branded, multimedia, multi-language newsroom right now with a 14-day free trial of Prezly, no payment info required.

And there are heaps of other benefits you can squeeze out of an online newsroom, including getting extra eyes on your story, more contacts, and yet another way to justify your value to your CEO or client. We go into why your newsroom should be at the core of your distribution strategy here.

Congratulations, your pitch is newsworthy!

Newsworthiness is all about empathy. Empathy for the journalists who want to bring good stories to their editors and audiences. Empathy for the readers who want relevant, timely news. Once you nail the power of empathy, you're well on your way to drafting a perfectly newsworthy pitch.

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Published 21 February 2024

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