How to Tell if it is News

Some good discussion came up at a lunch and learn workshop I hosted recently with my local chamber of commerce. The topic was communications for small businesses, and the question was, “How do you determine whether or not it is news?”

Good question! We were talking about working with media and writing news releases that get attention. Start by asking yourself, is it news? It might be news to you, but is it news to your audience? Is it news to someone who you don’t even know might be your audience?

The media run stories that are of interest to their audiences. As readers and listeners, we are constantly asking ourselves, why does this story matter to me? Why should I take the time to read or listen to it? When we’re writing our news releases that we want to get attention, we have to answer those questions.

One person from a nonprofit organization mentioned that when they write a news release about receiving some funding, the media never picks it up. Let’s pick this one apart. Is that the news? How often do we see stories announcing funding? How often are they very compelling?

We want to know how it matters to us, and the human element is much more compelling than a funding announcement.

The funding announcement is news to a small segment of the audience. What that funding will do, who it will affect, how it will matter to a larger audience, that’s the news. We have to think of the outcome when we are sharing our news. The heritage building will be spared because of this funding. We can build a new playground because of this funding. We can make a difference in someone’s life because of this funding.

Identifying the segment of the population that will benefit from your announcement is one step. Sharing the story of someone who is affected by the news, there’s the real gold. That someone represents the segment of the population yet adds a name and a face to the news. It makes the news a story.

Move the story from “XYZ organization is providing funding to ABC organization” to “ABC organization is launching a new anti-bullying program thanks to funding from XYZ organization” to “A new anti-bullying program is creating a safe place for teens in our community.” Then share the news through the voice of someone who represents the audience of the program, someone who illustrates the outcome.

You’re still sharing a funding announcement. You’re simply showing why it matters. You’re giving it a human voice.