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  • Felicity Cowie

How journalists find stories

The two tests of what makes a story and how to be a great source.


One of the questions I'm asked most often is 'how do journalists find stories' and 'what makes the news?'


I wanted to do a micro blog on this to give you some fast answers.


There are two main things that make a story for a journalist.


Firstly, ‘is this new, is there something new and different happening here?’ Obviously, the word ‘news’ itself is an expression of this word ‘new’. So that makes it easy to remember as your first test when you’re considering what sort of story you want to pitch and how to pitch it. You must offer something new. And it can’t just be new to the world of your company, but you have to go beyond that and consider whether it’s new for a wider world.

And this connects to the second main thing a journalist is seeking: will this story interest, affect or involve many people? It can be easy to convince yourself that lots of people are interested in what you’re doing, because your team and immediate network are very engaged, but you need to consider whether your story holds meaning for large numbers outside of your orbit.


Be a great source


Even if you have a great story which ticks the 1) news 2) of interest to many boxes then a journalist might follow up the story but not include you in it! So to avoid this you need to position yourself as a great source when you pitch your story.


How?


You need to pitch with a press release and on the bottom of it you need to describe yourself in around 50 words. Journalists and publicity people often call this description a 'boilerplate'.


If you can clearly and concisely describe yourself as a source of information this helps the journalist assess if you are best placed to tell this story. Journalists almost always have to take your pitch and repitch it to workmates and an editor. They effectively have to fight for your story and defend you as a source. So make it easy for them.


It's a big topic but that gives you the headlines. If you want to find out more about this and gain tools to create your boilerplate and press release and find your best stories I've put it all into my book Exposure: Insider Secrets to Make Your Business a Go-To Authority for Journalists. Get it here to win headlines and gain pipelines.




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