It’s easy to get media attention when you have the inside scoop on a juicy new political scandal or pending arrest of a Fortune 500 C-Suiter. But how do you get a reporter’s attention… and that of their reader… when you want to tout positive, but not necessarily groundbreaking, good news?
The institutional media has a bias against good news. A quick search of major news websites right now includes a list of headlines which might lead a reader to think the world is nearing its end: Grand Jury to Hear Case in Florida Teen’s Killing; France Gunman May Have Filmed School Killings; Dozens Killed in String of Bomb Attacks Across Iraq; Chicago has a Unique Gang Problem; Asma Al-Assad: The Real Dictator? Even the woman fined $6,000 for planting flowers in her front yard and the TSA pat-down of a toddler in a wheelchair outrank any news of philanthropic donations, local community service efforts and the discovery of a long-missing van Gogh.
So how can you challenge that prevailing bias and break into the crowded breaking news space with your success story? Often a little more creativity is needed to get a reporter to see the value in a little sunshine.
1. Stakeholders like hearing good news – so present it with confidence
When a business decides to tackle a challenging, interesting and meaningful project, it makes sense to tout the initiative as you would any other business success in a manner that is consistent with your culture.
Both employees and customers want to know when their company is giving back to the community. Even if the specific cause isn’t one they would personally champion, people look to be employed by, and be involved with, companies who care. It is your responsibility to make sure your stakeholders understand this investment in ways that are meaningful to them. In many instances, organizations think their good news will appear too self-serving if announced formally. But not every piece of good news requires a formal announcement because not every news story originates from a press release or media advisory. The right mix of creativity and news value is the key.
2. Find news hook… and take advantage of it
As with any media pitch, you need to understand what you’re selling before you try to convince a reporter that the story is worth his time. First, think objectively about what makes the good news good. Groupthink within organizations can sometimes lead to corporate initiatives being mistaken for legitimate good news. A healthy dose of initial skepticism guards against that.
Then, figure out what tools you have available to make that message noteworthy. Maybe there are opportunities to collaborate with local news-makers or even journalists themselves. Perhaps there is an opportunity for a visual for local television or spot news. Or perhaps your good news has ties to an industry that is usually crowded with bad news?
3. Create Urgency
One of the biggest challenges with soft news in an environment of media deadlines and breaking headlines is getting a reporter to understand why the story should be told now. If the timely hook isn’t obvious, create your own urgency. What are reporters covering already? Look at local daybook and event listings for news you might be able to tie to your own. It might mean holding news for the right timing, but the wait is typically worth the payout.
4. Spread the word beyond traditional news channels
A thoughtfully-worded op-ed submission or a letter to the editor of a regional newspaper can ensure messaging is communicated as intended and reaches a specific audience. Seek out regional and national lists and awards recognizing companies that contribute to making the world a better place (e.g., Forbes Companies that Give Back, Ladies Home Journal Companies that Care).
Social media tools like Twitter and Facebook allow companies to go directly to stakeholders with their good news, bypassing the filter of traditional media entirely. Get project partners involved and make your supporters your champions.
5. Go outside your comfort zone
Don’t pitch the story to the same old reporters in your Rolodex, simply because you know them and they might have a distant link to your topic. Hone in on the most relevant audience; then find the reporter reaching that audience. This can easily lead to favorable relationships with new reporters and editors, which is good news for marketers in its own right.
Good-news campaigns often require multiple approaches and some outside-the-box thinking. Creativity is the path to successful placements and a golden reputation.