Fresh eyes

What makes a good news story?

What makes a good news story

Written by Laura Wild,
at Freshfield

The Freshfield team is made up of a number of former journalists with years of experience working on local, regional and national newspapers and we are often asked by clients ‘what makes a good news story?’

Here, senior PR executive Laura Wild, who joined the team from a regional daily newspaper, gives her top tips on the subject.

Hook

As a starting point, there needs to be a reason for the story. That might sound obvious – but think about it, if your story is an advert without a genuine news hook a journalist won’t be interested. They’ll delete it.

For example, a news story on a new innovative product is more likely to make the headlines if it’s a world first, using ground-breaking technology and creating 50 jobs. It’s unlikely to make it if it’s a blatant advert. Or, a business holding a golf day for charity which raises £10,000 towards building a new community centre will make the news, a business holding a golf day for fun for its staff won’t.

The key information, or the hook, needs to be at the start of the story too. The who, what, where, when and why need to be covered in the first few paragraphs.

Photographs

Good photographs make a huge difference to the type of coverage a story will receive. Many newspaper pages are on a template and in some cases there’s little room for manoeuvre when it comes to redrawing a page – and all these pages have a space for a photo with them. A story without a photo is less likely to receive such prominence. Even if you only have a head and shoulders photograph there’s still a good chance it could be used.

At local newspapers in particular there are fewer staff photographers, so it won’t always be the case that a photographer from the publication can come to your event. However, speaking from experience, if good photographs are sent, within a good time frame, they have a better chance at making the cut. Plus any photos you take for that purpose can be used on your own media channels.

Timing

The clue is in the word news, it needs to be something new. Journalists don’t want to receive ‘news’ on something which happened ‘last week’ or ‘recently’. Timing is key. Strike while the iron is hot so to speak.

Also keep in mind the media landscape is changing so if you have a great story to tell but you’re posting it on social media for a week before you contact the press they might have already picked it up and done something on a much smaller scale, or be less interested because it’s been doing the rounds on the internet for so long.

Timing comments within hours of a breaking story will always be welcomed by journalists, as will case studies. But comment on the day it happens, not two days later.

Facts

Well-founded statistics or survey results which are of genuine interest can really grab the headlines. They can also help create a hook when you don’t always have one.

The key here is coming up with something unique. Good statistics combined with case studies have the potential to make front page news and be picked up by the wider media.

The trick to getting it right is being able to flesh out the story after the headline figure.

Human interest

Everybody has a story to tell. They might not think it, but they do. A person can help bring any story to life, case studies can turn something that might be quite dry and straight-forward into a story that gets everybody talking. Putting a face to an issue can help draw the reader in and help them understand the topic more.

Case studies are crucial to so many stories and could be the difference between coverage of a few paragraphs on page 76 and a full page feature nearer the front of the paper. A good case study is less time sensitive too.

Relevance

Make sure the story you are telling has relevance to the publication and its readers. Significance also plays a huge part. The more people affected by this news or issue the better the chances of it being covered.

Of course the very nature of news might mean that there’s a better story than yours with bigger impact or of more relevance to people, but if you can tick most of the boxes above you’ve got a better chance than most.

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