Making worthy stories newsworthy

Submitted by Kirsti Battista on May 8, 2014 - 12:37pm
Tools to help build media relations and get your story heard

Not-for-profits have important stories to share with the public, but how do they ensure their stories get heard and picked up by the media?

In Hamilton, ON, The Hamilton Spectator and Mohawk College run a Media Relations Summer Camp that gives local non-profits, community groups and associations the opportunity to learn more about social media, media relations, on-camera interviews, and writing op-eds and letters to the editor. Jay Robb, Director of Communications for Mohawk College, shares Start Spreading the News, a media primer for not-for-profit organizations.

4 ways to make your story newsworthy:

  • Why should we care?  Answer this to make your stories newsworthy… don’t just talk about yourself
  • Why tell the story now?  Respond to an issue that’s in the news or that the community is talking about now
  • What’s new with your story? Is it a first for the community, or for non-profits – make it exclusive.  Is it something that’s unexpected or unusual
  • Build your pitch around a person (1 real person) – use their single compelling story (not ED or board chair necessarily)

Other Tips…

  • Don’t spend time on media releases. It's better to make quick pitches through email that includes 3-4 sentences that answer the 4 questions above. 
  • Pitch to the right reporter – Reporters' contact information can be found online – watch the newspaper to see who is covering what topic
  • Never include an attachment in your email
  • Make the subject line the headline for a future article
  • Be clear, concise and short
  • Send only to one reporter – pitch to only that one

What’s in your pitch?

  • Give a real person and their contact information
  • Be clear about the pitch
  • Let them know exactly what they are going to see – be precise
  • Include all your contact information as well as all other pertinent information

How to give stand-out interviews

  • Be bold, be brief, be quiet
  • Be memorable – quotes that add personality to the story
  • Be brief – no more than 10 seconds on radio or 1-2 sentences on radio – work on them before the interview
  • Be quiet – pregnant pause – don’t stray off message or rush to fill in dead air
  • Be yourself – don’t pretend to be someone you are not.  Be authenthic.   
  • View it as building a long term relationship

Cautions…

  • Never ask to review the story before it runs
  • Don’t ask for a copy of the story of the media clip from the reporter
  • You are on the record from the moment you start talking
  • Reporters don’t write headlines – don’t hurt them for that
  • Don’t be high maintenance – be helpful not hurtful
  • Don’t pretend that your reporter is your best friend – keep it professional

Story Telling Angles

  • Become a resident expert (be known for something so that media will call you for local comments to provincial/territorial or national stories). They may also call for simplifying complex ideas.  Be known for your passion. 
  • Raise your own profile – win awards, give speeches, write op-eds, talk on panels
  • Follow reporters on social media and engage with them there – raise your profile on social media

Op-Eds and Letters to the Editor

  • Here’s the problem, here’s the solution, and a call to action.  Less than 700 words and tied to something people are talking about

Recommended Reading:

Learn more: