Five Great News Stories You're Sitting On Right Now

Smaller companies don't always have the budget - or inclination - to retain a PR
hotshot to tell the world about their business success, but that doesn't mean they
aren't a ready source of news.

The problem is it's often dull news which is ignored by all except the industry press
and quite rightly so in most cases. If you land a contract, you issue a press release.
If you take on a new senior sales rep, you issue a press release. Attending an
exhibition? Press release, natch. These are simply announcements that you are
doing what you do, that it's business as usual.

With a little lateral thinking, however, you could be issuing press releases
throughout the year which present topics and subjects that'll have editors from all
disciplines chasing you for the full story. Below I've presented just five
brainstormers to get the creative juices flowing.

o Your Survey Says...

Even though I know nothing about your company, the odds are that you have the
time and resources to carry out a survey which could get you some coverage if it's
implemented and reported properly.

Concentrate on your niche, whether that's your industry or expertise. Keep it
relatively simple, but ensure the final results have the potential to grab headlines.
For example, if you're a butcher, you could ask 100 people if they would give up
bacon if their partner issued an ultimatum. '4 Out of 10 Choose Bacon Over
Marriage' is going to get an editor's attention!

But be honest about your methodology. If you've simply polled a handful of your
colleagues, don't try to pass it off as a six-month research project.

Some journalists won't touch a survey story with a barge poll unless it's been
carried out with the kind of planning that goes into a Nasa shuttle launch, but
others might find it useful, particularly if it's a fun subject and doesn't take itself
too seriously.

o Your Opinion Counts

Surf the major news sites - try Google News for starters:

http://news.google.com/nwshp?hl=en&gl=us

Ask yourself what you or your boss would have to say about the main news stories
of the day. Or perhaps a current event impacts directly on your industry. Pretty soon
you're going to have a story to tell.

A property solicitor in Scotland did this and the resulting story is great - here's the
intro:

"Scottish property solicitor criticises Gordon Brown's tax U-turn.

A leading Scottish property solicitor has criticised Chancellor of the Exchequer
Gordon Brown's decision to abolish without notice the exemption for deprived areas
from Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT), saying that the measure would have an adverse
impact upon the commercial property market in Scotland."

Full story: http://www.clickpress.com/releases/Detailed/542005cp.shtml

o Your Opinion Counts 2 - Straight to the Editor's Desk

While serving as editor of business magazines in the past, there have been times
when PR companies have contacted me following publication with some kind of
gripe regarding coverage of their company or client.

Disgruntled PR people are often being beaten hard with large sticks by CEOs and
senior management who just don't 'get media', so their persistence is somewhat
understandable.

But 9.98 times out of 10 the PR exec is simply not going to get what they want -
some kind of full-page, front-cover apology and glowing testimonial signed by the
publisher himself printed with a photo of the editor's public execution.

Every time I let them down I did say: "Write in - we're always keen to receive letters
to the editor." I'd guess one in 20 actually went ahead and did so, but you know
what? If every one of them wrote in I would almost certainly have printed them all.
Good editors embrace transparency - if you disagree with them or their reporters
they're likely to print your letter.

o Happy Birthday

At the very most you're 364 days away from some company milestone and if you
put your mind to it you may find a few anniversaries just around the corner.

Don't limit yourself to the xx years since the company was launched, how about the
anniversary of the company's first profit, a look back at the day the company took
on its 10th employee, or the date a key contract was secured.

Then tell the tale of how your company has developed since this date. Be sure to
include some drama, the good times and the bad, and plenty of meaty quotes from
the most senior talking heads.

o Make a Date

Hunt for an angle based on some future date that is covered in one way or another
by local and national press.

Browse some of these major online almanacs for inspiration:

http://www.infoplease.com/dayinhistory/

http://www.scopesys.com/anyday/

http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/archive.html

What you're doing here is following the Happy Birthday strategy, but looking for
external hooks on which to hang your news release.

Local newspapers in particular like to keep an eye on the calendar, so if you can
provide your neighbourhood newspaper with a story, photo opportunity or news
release and photo package related to a particular event, celebration or holiday, you
could get some great quality local coverage.

o Only Five?

Trawl the internet for reasons to write a press release and you'll come up with
dozens of lists. Some of them provide 30 plus reasons to issue a release, but the
vast majority of them require you to have "done something". They are reactive
reasons, rather than proactive.

The reasons given above can be put into action today - you don't have to wait to
secure a new contract or make a high-level appointment to get ink.

You might not have known you were sitting on those news stories, but there's no
time like the present to tip off the press that you have them.

Copyright © 2005 George Hopkin