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Industry Insight | 10th August 2021

Hitting the headlines: what makes a story newsworthy?

Read Time: 3 minutes


What makes a story ‘news’ is one of the most fundamental questions of PR and communications. But it’s not always an easy one to answer. The news cycle is fast-paced, ever-changing, and a story that is news one moment can quickly become irrelevant and old hat before you know it.  

Trying to convince journalists that the story you are selling in is worthy of attention is part and parcel of the day-to-day life of any PR practitioner. Getting the news angle right is essential to deliver results. At Onyx Health, we offer PR support to help accelerate your business, delivering communication results that drive sales. 

It’s all about the news values 

When people talk about something being newsworthy, this is based partly on a core set of key news values that determine the likelihood of receiving news coverage. It must be stressed that meeting these values guarantees you nothing, though it does increase your chances of success. Many newsworthy stories are dropped at the last minute due to competition on the day or a breaking news event that grabs the headlines. So, context is always the deciding factor.  

1. Get the timing right 

The clue is in the name; news must be something new. Keeping your finger on the pulse of the latest current events, trends, and hot topics that have just happened that day can help tap into the media agenda. Things move fast in the world of PR, and breaking news becomes old news in no time at all, so being quick and responsive is key. A major Government announcement on vaccine passports could get a health informatics company coverage on the day it’s announced, but delays of even a few hours can result in losing the opportunity.  

2. What’s the impact?   

How many people are affected by this story? What is the scale and extent of what has taken place? When it comes to getting in the headlines, size matters. The bigger, the better. Answering these questions will tell you how to pitch your story. Whether it’s a smaller story relevant for a local audience or if it can reach the nationals. The impact doesn’t need to be immediate to be news. A think tank report predicting that 50% of UK children will be obese by 2040 could still get major coverage.  

3. Location, location, location  

Stories that are closer to home tend to cut through. Something related to our community, where we have a sense of attachment and belonging, has an enhanced news value. Its a simple equation: greater proximity gives the reader a stronger emotional connection with events, making them more newsworthy. A major train crash in Manchester will have greater news value in the UK than a train crash of the same size in outer Mongolia.  

4. Human interest – making the news personal  

People are interested in stories that have a strong emotional resonance. It’s a fact of life that people are interested in other people. Such stories may be sad, funny, tragic or shocking to pique a journalist’s interest. Human interest stories don’t follow the conventions of other news. They don’t age as quickly; they don’t need to impact large numbers of people, and their location is less relevant. A story about a pensioner being saved from a mugging or a young mum being rescued from a burning building has the potential not just to get coverage, but to touch people on an emotional level.   

5. Conflict and controversy  

Stories that are driven by disagreement, dispute or argument sell more newspapers and get greater online hits. We care when it’s controversial, whether it’s strikes, violence, celebrity split-ups or Twitter spats. Although it can be for all the wrong reasons, negative news is a real headline grabber. This approach is not without risks; going negative can damage a company’s brand or a personal reputation. That’s why you should never use negative news tactics unless they are part of a wider strategy.  

6. Novelty news  

Quirky news stories can also make a real impact. A story with something odd, unusual or surprising about it, like a woman being a grandma at 30, or a man falling from a third-story window unscathed, can attract journalists’ attention. However, by their nature, novelties soon wear off and tend to have a limited shelf-life. Make sure you know the limits of your story before you go live, or have a plan in place to lengthen it in the news cycle. Novelty news can be lengthened, but it won’t last.   

7. The celebrity factor 

Celebrity news is big business. There are endless tabloid headlines and gossips columns generated by the antics of the rich and famous. The significance of such stories is dependent on the celebrity. A Love Island contestant may get a great deal of coverage while the show is on air but may lose news value in a year to six months. A major global star like Tom Cruise dying will lead international headlines whenever it happens. Celebrity attachment can also elevate the news value of a story that would otherwise receive little coverage. A charity raising £50,000 for cancer patients isn’t big news, but it becomes a much bigger story if Hugh Grant donated it.  

Get in touch 

At Onyx Health, we’re experts in helping our clients tap into the news agenda, reaching national and international media outlets. 

So, if you’re a healthcare and life science company interested in getting seen and heard for the great stuff you do, drop us a line to find out how we can help.   

+44 (0)191 640 3638 

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