In public relations, there’s a visceral thrill to connecting with a reporter and making a relevant story happen. The road to the great story is seldom a direct path from “light bulb” to posted or published, but there are some time-tested ways to develop and nurture promising ideas.
Freestyle. Sometimes it pays to divert from the meeting agenda. We start every client conversation by asking what’s new. And we mean it, because that’s often where the great stories hide. Recently a client casually mentioned that his company was expanding its work in medical 3D printing, and this released a torrent of interesting story angles for writers who hadn’t covered the company previously.
Refocus on your audience. What good is a great story if it appears somewhere that misses the intended audience? Keep up-to-date lists of the publications, websites, broadcast outlets that reach top prospects. Savvy PR “pitchers” update their lists constantly – we like to say, add at least one new outlet or writer every day. Research what each addition covers and get to know each one’s tone and voice. This helps ensure story development in lock step with journalist needs.
Refresh your research daily. Sure, you can monitor for a company’s press coverage or that of its competition, but to ferret out the interesting angles, it pays to know the category inside out. This also helps craft a list of the top reporters who cover the industry regularly and who would appreciate hearing a different, creative take on the subject matter. While reading, don’t skip the comments section. As we referred to in this post, these sections are often full of unexplored possibilities.
Rip it from the headlines. The best PR storytellers know that “newsjacking” is still one of the best ways to come up with relevant story angles. These include riffing on something seasonal or newsworthy like March Madness or new movies or TV series, or tying a story to what’s trending right now – weighing in on the Tribeca Film Festival “Vaxxed” controversy or the escalating smutfest between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.
Know reporter hot-buttons. Does that reporter who covers women and tech also blog about her family? How about the workplace diversity journo who tweets incessantly about food? Can a plausible story angle be devised that combines reporter beats and personal interests? We say, yes, give it a try. And, once you have those valuable media relationships, a great story angle can come from simply asking a journalist “hey, what are you working on?”