4 ways to fit the changing frame of ‘newsworthy’

These days selfies, celebrity breakups and dog pants—yes, dog pants—garner coverage. If you take pride in your pitches, read on.

In a creative field like PR, identifying a relevant and compelling story is subjective.

News decision-makers and PR pros share the frontlines of determining what is worthy of coverage, especially given that the definition of “newsworthy” has evolved.

Newsworthy content now includes trending topics about selfies, the color of a dress and even dog pants. How can dog pants be categorized as news? Stay with me here. Yes, dog pants may be considered newsworthy by some, which means PR pros have an intriguing opportunity to transform pitching strategies.

Evolution of news

In the past, a successful pitch might include breaking news, fresh statistics or updated information for an ongoing story. However, news consumption has shifted significantly, and in a quest to pique and keep people’s attention, PR pros and journalists have had to adapt.

Topics that would not have been considered newsworthy a few years ago are prominent on social media sites and leading national news outlets. This probably will continue in 2016 with more media organizations featuring stories based on trending topics rather than breaking news. A growing need for content offers possibilities to public relations pros who understand how to integrate this kind of material into their mix and pitch it to the appropriate decision-makers.

Nontraditional news topics

For example, in the final week of 2015, social and traditional media outlets posed a seemingly important question: If a dog wore pants, would it be on two legs or four? The buzz around this topic originated from a tweet posted by the deputy editor of Maxim. It included this picture:


How did this topic, which by traditional news standards is not newsworthy, go from a single Twitter post to a viral sensation? Within hours of the original post, many of the editor’s 24,000 followers shared it with their communities. Before long, the photo went viral and began trending on social media, which was an important part in its appeal to traditional news outlets.Today, TIME magazine and BBC picked up the story. President Barack Obama weighed in on the content, too.

This isn’t the first time that an offbeat story has pervaded traditional media channels. Last year, the Internet was abuzz when a post on Tumblr asked the colors of “the dress”:


The official colors were eventually revealed to be blue and black, but that’s not the point. Traditional news editors shared the content because it held consumers’ attention. Media properties such as CNN, USA Today and many others also ran the piece.

Let’s not forget the $1.4 million toilet or a mother who knitted a life-size version of her son.

New rules of media relations

To adapt to this trend, consider the following tips:

1. Broaden your definition of “news.” Pay attention to what’s hot. Similar to monitoring national news organizations, begin the same habit for social news and lifestyle sites such as Buzzfeed. Watch trending stories on Twitter, Tumblr and Reddit. Are there ways to newsjack this style of content and insert your brand into what’s hot?

Download the free white paper, “How to be a brand journalist,” to learn how to tell your organization’s compelling stories.

2. Tap into the shareability factor. Dog pants, the dress and other recent story sensations achieved major coverage because consumers were sharing it. Create pitches that point out shareability potential to reporters and producers. Today’s journalists look for content that people are motivated to pass along to their own followers and communities. This can result in shares, clicks and views, along with the typical media requirements—content that boosts ratings while attracting audience and advertisers.

3. Offer to share the media outlet’s story. If your organization has a strong online presence, let the journalist know and offer to post their final story on your company’s channels. Once it’s live, send the journalist appropriate links and analytics. This follow-up gives you another touch point and helps you build on your relationship.

4. Use visuals. Have you seen a recent trending topic or viral story without visuals? Probably not. That’s why you should create video, photos or graphics as part of your content. This can be a standard photo, meme or GIF. If your company has created multimedia elements to accompany a pitch, let journalists know that they are original and available to them for free and unrestricted use. If you didn’t create the visuals, include links and be transparent about source credits and attribution.

Think about your content in a new way, and it may just become the next dog pants story.

Lisa Arledge Powell is president of MediaSource, a content-focused public relations firm that specializes in brand journalism. MediaSource has been named Best Health Care Agency in 2013, 2014 and 2015 in Ragan’s Health Care PR & Marketing Awards. Connect on Twitter: @LisaArledge.

This article was created in partnership with MediaSource.


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