What’s Newsworthy About Your Client?

Public relations done well can really help promote a client and attract links. But to get any decent coverage you have to be newsworthy. And therein lies a problem – genuine breaking news stories don’t happen often enough to sustain an ongoing PR campaign. So if you want to keep your client in the media spotlight, you’ve got to find creative ways of generating newsworthy stories.

I’m currently doing research with CitationLabs.com into how SEOs use PR in link-building campaigns. The research, not yet published, reveals that 75 percent of respondents had used PR in the past and more intended to do so in the future.

That shows that PR plays an important part in many SEO campaigns.

But one of the biggest challenges reported in our survey was the difficulty of finding newsworthy stories to pitch to journalists.

Breaking news stories are exciting to work on. They have a significant PR push from the client or their PR agency and SEO can support and amplify the impact of that work. But they’re not a regular occurrence with clients, even the largest. So if you want consistent coverage for your client, you’ve got to look elsewhere for newsworthy content.

People Are Newsworthy

The biggest opportunity outside of breaking news comes with “people” or “human interest” stories and there’s usually plenty of opportunity for those.

Have a quick look at the news in your client’s industry – you’ll find plenty of examples of people-focused stories. The company involved probably didn’t generate these stories – it’s more likely the work of a skillful PR practitioner.

SEOs and link builders can do the same with their own clients, but they have to take the initiative in finding them.

There are four fruitful areas where you can start gathering such stories:

  • Your client’s customers
  • The founders or entrepreneur behind the business
  • The staff that work for your client
  • Companies that collaborate with your client

Let’s look at each of these and give some tips about the questions you should ask to find those stories.

1. Your Client’s Customers

What if you have a client that is in a really boring industry, like a funeral home? How do you get publicity and links for that?

One funeral home in the U.K. came up with a creative idea and it got them coverage on the BBC, Time Magazine, and a host of other top-notch media.

The secret was to look at their customer data for inspiration.

They had more than 30,000 customer records that happened to include the music people requested for their family service.

So they used the data to compile a chart of the top funeral songs in the U.K. The top of the list was surprising – and fantastically newsworthy.

“Look on the Bright Side of Life” from the controversial film The Life of Brian topped the list and made a great news story.

The story was picked up by the BBC as well as RollingStone.com, Time Magazine, and many others.

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The important lesson here is that the data was drawn from the company’s own records. It took a creative leap for someone to realize that the data was there, and took a look at it to see what it might reveal. The data was of no practical importance to the company, other than to create a newsworthy story.

Here are some questions to ask your client:

  • What data do they have on customers (even if it might seem unimportant at first)?
  • What unusual sales have they made?
  • What unusual uses of their products have they found?

These questions can uncover truly newsworthy stories at relatively little cost.

2. The Founders or Entrepreneur Behind the Business

This is perhaps the most common type of “people story” that makes the news. This article from The New York Times kicks right off with a personal perspective:

“Most weekday mornings, Jessie Goldenberg can be found driving around the Flatiron district of Lower Manhattan searching for just the right parking space for her truck.”

This opening is really just saying “it’s hard to find parking in Manhattan,” but the personal story makes it much more compelling.

The reader thinks: Who is this Jessie Goldenberg? Why is she driving a truck? And why does she need “just the right parking space”?

It’s those people questions that make the opening interesting and draw the reader into the story.

3-nomad-nytimes

The article is full of personal stories like this with quotes from multiple business owners and links to their site.

These quotes are newsworthy, but they don’t usually happen by accident. They’re usually crafted in one way or another, either by the entrepreneur repeatedly telling and refining their story, or (much more likely in my opinion) crafted with the help of a PR professional.

Such quotes and personal stories can make the difference between getting coverage in The New York Times– or not!

The lessons are:

  • Get to know the owner/founder of your client, encourage them to talk about their business, and listen for the “rough diamonds” of quotes that are sure to be in there.
  • Pick out the best and polish them into memorable quotes that can be dropped into a press release or media interview.

3. The Staff That Work for Your Client

Another relatively easy place to find newsworthy stories is your client’s staff. This story on the BBC website features staff who work at four different companies and enjoy some unusual perks.

4-unusual-job-perks-australia

What makes this story newsworthy is the story of how the staff “enjoy” their unusual perks as opposed to the fact that they actually have those perks. It’s the storytelling that makes the piece.

This story features four non-competing companies who share similar, unusual benefits. How did those stories get there?

Perhaps, the journalist involved spent hours researching possible contenders or posted a query on HARO – or perhaps, a helpful PR consultant did all the research, identified the companies and suggested them to the reporter.

The lessons are:

  • Listen out for unusual stories about your client’s staff, listen to chatter in the canteen or by the water cooler.
  • If you find something interesting, have some fun and see if you can put together a coherent story that might just be of interest to a journalist.
  • And if you can do additional work that will make a journalist’s job easier, do so – you may well get your reward.

4. Companies That Collaborate With Your Client

This story features online cycling game-cum-training tool that is still in beta – but that didn’t stop them grabbing a major piece of media coverage.

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The story features co-founder Eric Min, who told The Telegraph, “Six top world teams have promised spots to the winners of an X-Factor-like competition to find new riding talent.”

Lessons:

  • It’s a great story that features a video of the game in action.
  • There’s a lot of speculation in the article – the six potential world teams have not yet signed up and the X-Factor-like competition doesn’t yet exist – but hey, why let speculation get in the way of a good story?

Finally, all the stories featured in this article are newsworthy, yet they were not expensive or elaborate. They came from thinking about people and the interesting stories they had to tell.

Furthermore, the work involved in gathering the stories could be easily repurposed into other content. So even it your story isn’t published, it can still be a useful exercise in content marketing.

Homepage image via Dollar Photo Club.

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