Lots of things happen in businesses and communities all the time, and although these stories might not always be considered “breaking news,” it’s still important to get the word out. But what can we do to make our stories more appealing and more timley, especially when pitching to the press?
One of the key elements to successful public relations is telling a good story. Beyond and between the big talking points lie many opportunities to seize the attention of the audience you’re aiming to reach. Here are some tips we took away from “Keeping it Fresh – Editorial Challenges,” a workshop held last November by the Maine Press Association:
- Focus on the why. Think in terms of subjects – don’t let the heart of your message get buried in the details. Go a step beyond reiterating the facts and incorporate elements of the larger issues in the story. Your bank recently hired six new tellers? Instead of just naming who they are and where they’re from, elaborate on the bank’s continued growth and commitment to customer service. There’s a school board meeting coming up? Go beyond the when and where to delve into the issues on the docket and how they play into larger topics at the community, state or even national level.
- Follow the money. No matter the size or nature of the transaction, focusing on the origin and destination of funding is a great way to get at the heart of a story. Your restaurant association raised $10,000 for local organic farmers? Include some specifics of what the money will do; not just for the much needed irrigation equipment upgrade, but how as a direct result the farm will be able to more effectively support the customers and communities it serves, including the elementary school to which it supplies produce. A local business park is cutting the ribbon next week? Elaborate on how the property has been purchased by an international firm, and the money will result in renovations and increased personnel.
- Provide multiple perspectives. Have a good look all around you. Who’s involved in the story that can provide a unique take on the topic? Who’s on each side of the argument? Whose voice is absent? What issues aren’t being written about? Don’t assume you know what everyone might be thinking or feeling. Collect multiple quotes, and then narrow them down to a handful that provide the widest vantage of the story.
- Make it smaller. Take a run-of-the-mill story and narrow it down to a single point. The more “human” that point is, the better. Your town’s holiday craft fair is coming up? Focus on one or two of the vendors, and tell the story of who exactly they are, their connection to the town or community, the origins and inspirations of their art, and any special process or materials they may use in its production. It’s not just the product being sold, but the people as well.
Members of the press are often faced with a similar issue: making “regular” stories more interesting in order to paint the most colorful picture of the community as possible. The more unique, focused and personable we make our updates, the greater the chances of getting the story shared.