You have the big idea, the biggest. The best. Someone who works for you says this idea is awesome. Vesuvius will erupt when the world hears. You pick up your smartphone and you call or you write an email to your press agent, today known as a PR counsel.
“It’s the greatest, do your best. Headlines please. It’s too great.”
And it falls flat. So flat that the old adage about trees falling in the forest and no one hearing rings like a bell in your brain.
Why? If it was so good why will it go unheard? If it was the best how come reporters don’t agree? If it’s so awesome—your people can’t be wrong—why do you feel like a dope?
Answer: maybe it wasn’t news, and maybe it was almost awesome, and maybe your expectations were too high. What is this news thing, especially in the age of social media? Does news matter?
News matters. Just because you think it’s news doesn’t necessarily mean reporters, editors, producers and news directors will agree. Many of our clients believe when they first start to work with us that it’s all a fix. One fellow recently suggested that I should just pick up the phone and tell them to write about his idea. Another said it’s all a fix. Just do it, he instructed. You should have seen his face when I said that’s not how it works.
If you want to be in the news, you have to have news or create news.
So, what is news? It is new. It is happening. It has value to readers, watchers or listeners because they haven’t heard about it or haven’t heard much about it. It’s topical, current, interesting and something others who aren’t you will want to know about and likely at its best it’s information they believe they cannot live without.
Sure, it’s good to know human beings who make the decisions about what gets printed, published, aired, or entered. But what’s better is to have news that cannot be avoided, and if it doesn’t air, or appear in print, or isn’t entered onto the web, the bosses of the people who make those first decisions will be unhappy.
If you have real news, you don’t have to know anybody. You just have to place it into a format where it is unavoidable. If it’s in the forest and the tree falls and no one hears it, it wasn’t news. It was lost, and the reporters who function in a world of limited space won’t flinch for a second from the sound they never heard.
So if you don’t have news, what do you do?
News doesn’t mean there’s an earthquake down the block or that three dogs got bitten by a very large man.
You pay attention to what in the news. What’s out there? What are people talking about? How is your story related or can you make it related? Knowing people in the media is great, but they won’t report on something that isn’t news. You have to put a spin on your story, tie it into current news, create a newsworthy narrative. You have to be the reporter of your story so it’s clear that it’s news and the media can’t ignore you.
That’s what PR and communications people do.