Does your PR story pass the ‘So what?' test?

Mar 23, 2016
Getting a story about your business in the press doesn’t happen by magic - and it’s not a black art - but knowing a thing or two about what editors are looking for can make sure that your story ends up in the newspaper and not in the waste paper bin.
First of all you must make sure your story is going to be of interest to the readers of the publication you’re sending it to.  Local papers tend to run stories about local people, whereas national publications look for ones that will appeal to a wider audience.  A story about the opening of an organic vegetable shop in Norwich for example, with a picture of the mayor cutting the tape on the big day, will probably make the local rag; but it’s unlikely to appear in the Daily Telegraph.  If you’re aiming to get published in magazines, take the trouble to find out what kind of stories they’ve featured in the past and what the editor likes to print. It’s also worth phoning editors (they don’t bite ... often) to ask them what features they’re planning during the next few months. You might be just the right person to contribute an article on one of the topics.

A press release should be a genuine news story, not an advertisement; stories that are too self congratulatory or are really just a sales pitch will end up in the editor’s bin.  For example don’t write; Norwich’s top organic baker XYZ & Co is delighted to announce the opening of its fabulous new shop in the city centre.  The new store offers shoppers the very best in organic bakery products at a price everyone can afford,” said Manager Sam Miller.

Does your PR story pass the 'So what?' test?Instead write something like; Organic baker XYZ & Co opened its new shop in Norwich city centre on 19 December.  The move is the latest phase in the company’s expansion programme and is the fifth branch to open during the last three years.  Manager Sam Miller said; “Organic food is becoming very popular and the new store will mean our customers won’t have to travel to our rural shops to buy our products.”

In marketing terms, sending out press releases is a ‘farming’ activity to back up the overall marketing effort, whereas paid for advertising is about ‘hunting’ and more direct in its approach.  Both have a valuable role to play, but don’t confuse the two.

Your story should always answer the questions, Who? Why? When? Where?  Make sure you’ve included the names and titles of people in your story.

Having written your press releases you need to apply the ‘So what?’ test.  If, after reading it with a cool head, you feel like saying "So what?" that’s what the editor is probably going to say before throwing it in the bin.

David Jordan
Director, The Words Workshop