Newsworthiness is everything when trying to pique a reporter’s interest and get coverage. But sometimes it can be hard to get journalists interested in your client’s area of expertise. So, how can you take a topic that’s highly niche, or maybe a bit dull, and make it newsworthy in 2023?
First, we need to break down what newsworthiness actually means. It’s a mix of timeliness, emotion, proximity, conflict, relevance, and human interest that make a story interesting.
Newsworthiness is defined by a mix of five fundamental elements. Not every campaign has to hit all five, but should include a mix of at least two to catch a journalist’s eye.
Timeliness means that the campaign is relevant right now.
In 2023, that could mean focusing on inflation’s impact during countrywide layoffs, what Americans think about UFOs given all the balloons the government shot down, or how much millennials or Gen Zers really know about ‘adulting’ as they make their waves on the workforce.
Keep it relevant to today. For example, a campaign about how many Americans had to transition to working from home in 2020 wouldn’t reveal anything new to a journalist today. However, a campaign about how many Americans are still working from home, whether they’ve chosen to embrace their newfound flexibility and move elsewhere, or if employers feel pressured to offer working from home as a benefit to get the best candidates are topics that could be interesting to a reporter.
Proximity refers to your geographic location. This doesn’t mean your campaign should be relevant to where you are – but it should be relevant to the journalists that you are pitching. When we watch local news in the mornings and evenings, it’s hyper-local because we care more about where we live than what is happening in a city across the country. Digital PR campaigns are the same.
You wouldn’t send a pitch of ‘California’s Favorite TV Show is Stranger Things’ to a reporter in New York, Illinois, or Florida. They wouldn’t find this relevant for their audience. A campaign can cover a large region (like the entire United States) or can focus on one city (like Chicago) but remember to consider the geographical region you’re going to be pitching from the very beginning.
You’ve probably noticed the news tends to focus on negative stories. The ongoing war in Ukraine, inflation’s crippling impact on the economy, and the deadly earthquake in Turkey – just to name a few. Topics that are controversial or focus on conflict tend to attract more attention because they evoke an emotional reaction in an audience.
This doesn’t mean your campaigns need to focus on doom and gloom. But your campaign should evoke some kind of emotion for both journalists and in turn, their audience.
Think about what you’d do if you were scrolling through Facebook and saw a news station covering your campaign. Would you stop scrolling and read it? Did it make you particularly happy? Or surprised? Would you ‘like’ it on Facebook or share it on Twitter?
Try to focus on campaigns that you’d react to ‘in the wild’. This is a great test to figure out if your campaign evokes emotion.
People care about other people. My favorite way to define human interest comes from PBS: “People are interested in other people… We like unusual stories of people who accomplish amazing feats or handle a life crisis…”
When ideating a campaign, ask yourself: Who cares? It sounds harsh, but it’s important to ask yourself if someone actually cares about the campaign you’re pitching. Ask yourself again and again when ideating campaigns.
Relevance is a healthy mix of timeliness and proximity. If you’re a member of Generation X living in Chicago, you probably don’t want to read the news about TikTok dance trends that are popular in Los Angeles.
When we talk about relevance and digital PR campaigns, we mostly think about pitching journalists who will care about our campaign. Be sure to consider this early in ideation so your idea isn’t too niche and only a small group of journalists might care about it.
How do we earn media coverage for niche businesses? In understanding what makes a story newsworthy, we create content campaigns that fit into the news cycle.
Here’s how to take a hyper-focused topic, catch a reporter’s attention, and build links:
Psst – this is my top tip for anyone working in digital PR: watch the news. It sounds simple, but many don’t. If you’re pitching media outlets you need to know what they’re interested in talking about.
I personally watch morning national news that highlights the main stories around the U.S. and includes a mix of lifestyle and international news. I also keep tabs on the news of the day via social media. I signed up for several news roundup emails that are sent straight to my inbox every morning. That helps ensure my content is valuable to journalists.
Make sure you are staying on top of what’s happening locally, nationally, and internationally. Write down the recurring themes. Some stories we’ve seen come up time and time again: inflation’s impact on everyday life, Gen Z making waves in the workplace, and flight delays as travel returns to pre-pandemic levels.
PR for a niche industry can be challenging, so start by becoming an expert in the area that your client’s site covers. While you want to keep campaign ideas relevant, start off by brainstorming all the potential topics that you could ideate around. For example, if a client’s site sells insurance, you could brainstorm around the topics:
Next, go to sites like Google News, Muck Rack, or Buzzsumo and start plugging in the different topics. Create a Google doc and collect news stories that focus on the same topic your client’s site covers, and filter it for the past three to six months. This will help familiarize you with the kinds of stories that journalists are writing about the industry you are focused on.
No matter how niche the topic, or how dull or dry it is, there’s bound to be something out there that journalists are talking about. Become an expert in the topics you’re researching and learn about how it’s being talked about in the news. Digital PR for a unique industry can be very successful, you just have to get creative and focus on newsworthiness.
So, now you have a list of what’s trending on the news, and you have a list of topics you can ideate around. It’s time to draw connections to come up with a newsworthy campaign idea.
For example, you could draw a line between crippling inflation and home buying. Start to brainstorm and think about how you can tie the client’s site content to any of the topics happening right now. Find the link from the client’s site topic to what’s happening in the news, and start to ideate campaigns from there.
It’s likely that your client’s competitors are also producing content for digital PR purposes. Spend some time looking at their blog, or using Ahrefs to find which of their pages have the highest number of backlinks.
Look at how they are connecting their site’s topics to the news, and how journalists are covering it. What stats are journalists focusing on? What headlines are they using? Has one kind of campaign earned drastically more links than others? Looking at this can help spark ideas for how you can effectively make your topic newsworthy in 2022.
There are many different formats that are popular across the digital PR industry.
Here are some examples:
Surveys can generate newsworthy digital PR campaigns that earn hundreds of links because the creative control is in your hands. You can ask respondents about any topic you found to be buzzworthy, newsworthy, or interesting as it relates to your campaign. However, your survey must be unbiased. You cannot ask leaning questions that would lead respondents to answer a certain way. Journalists are trained to sniff out bias at the first whiff.
Maps are a great way to localize your news content for digital PR campaigns. By analyzing Google Search Trends, you can take a topic and see how often (or not) people are searching for it.
These can make for light-hearted campaigns or take a look at more serious problems. At Digital Third Coast, we have done state-by-state maps on everything from which states are most pumpkin spice obsessed to cities with the most renters (pointing at where it is the hardest for people to earn enough to buy).
Rankings are another form of Digital PR campaigns that can earn a sizable amount of links. That’s because they tend to answer a question we’ve all already asked ourselves but the answer isn’t already readily available. Rankings also provide deeper insights into overall opinions on certain topics.
For example, we have done rankings pieces where we ask respondents to rank their favorite NFL mascots. This campaign earned our client 205 backlinks because it gets at a fun, interesting question and it also piques the interest of local reporters because it focuses on teams across the nation.
We ask Google some of our most intimate and burning questions. It’s a true source of anonymous honesty and a great place to find sentiment among Americans.
Google trends analyses give insights on how often (or not) people are Googling a certain question. You can even localize this data by filtering your search to find out how often people are looking up that question based on what state or city they live in.
We have used Google trends analyses to look at what the most common dreams are in every state. This campaign earned our client over 125 links because it dives into a topic that could generate interest in a wide variety of publications from lifestyle to local news.
Let’s say your client’s site covers a seriously dull topic like data entry. First of all you may be thinking, how can I make data entry interesting and newsworthy? Let’s look at how we can brainstorm different campaign ideas based on the format.
For example, a dream job marketing campaign. You’ve probably seen them all over social media: ‘We’ll pay you to watch TV!’, ‘We’ll pay you to eat ice cream!’ etc. So how can we create a fun, buzzy campaign like this about data entry?
Maybe you could pay someone to enter fun data, like how many times Joey dates a different woman on Friends? Or how many times Janice says her catchphrase “Oh. My. God!” Now you have a fun dream job campaign: We’ll pay you to watch the entire Friends series (and collect data on the characters).
Now you’re familiar with what journalists want, what’s being said about your client’s industry, and how to connect real-time trending news topics to your client’s site, it’s time to ideate your next campaign.
No matter how dull, niche, or complicated a client’s site topic is, the above tactics will help you find a way to come up with campaigns that are relevant to a client’s site and newsworthy in 2023. This is a blueprint for ideating a campaign for any industry – and the key to earning media coverage for your client.