This module is all about building news stories and working out what yours is.
If you are embarking on this module, it’s because we’ve told you what we think your story is.
Even though you know what your story is, we recommend quickly read through Step 1 so you get some background on what makes a good news story.
These examples are intended to get you thinking more laterally about the kind of stories that can work so you can spot one in future.
You may end up using a combination in one story and that’s totally fine.
PLEASE READ THROUGH EACH STORY TYPE BELOW
Getting a story in the business press will do wonders for your credibility and for building trust in your brand. Together with your trade media, the business titles are a great place to start spreading the word about your new ventures.
There are two ways in. The first is with a news story.
This is the latest update on your business. It could be anything from:
- Securing funding
- Launching a new product
- Expanding into other countries
- A prominent person joining your company
- Tech advances that you’re leading
The key is that the story should be new and attention-grabbing.
What’s not a story? Things like a packaging redesign or a website relaunch or discounting your products.
The second way in is through a more in-depth story on your business. You still need a good angle to land one of these, but they allow more room for narrative and anecdotal accounts.
Here your story might be around your growth lessons or how you turned your business around, offering some danger warnings on an approach that didn’t work for you or how and why your business pivoted and became something totally different to your original vision.
While it doesn’t have to be news, it does have to be interesting for the reader, not just a profile on your business. Think about what makes your business distinctive and how you tackle things differently.
TYPICAL MEDIA – your trade media, business and small business media.
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Often you will see stories about your industry that you have an opinion on. In these cases, you can look to get involved in the discussions and by doing so introduce your business.
It’s a great way to make your story appear less like an advertisement and make it more credible and informative.
For example if you own a pub, you could weigh in on the debate about the lock out law and how it’s affected your business; is it the right approach, has it reduced violence in your venue?
Perhaps you make reusable coffee cups and if so, the talk on the war on waste would be a big play arena for your business.
If fitness is your game, look at the latest stats released on the health of the nation or similar and see if you can tie what you do into the discussion.
Alternatively what are the issues in your industry that no one is talking about but should be? Could you lead a debate?
So where do you start?
The best way to work out how you fit in is to look at the stories that are being written and the issues being talked about in your industry.
You could begin with your trade press and then work your way up to the daily newspapers; see what’s driving debate.
You don’t have to stick to your trade media or even domestic media; you could look to overseas titles too for inspiration. Titles like Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur etc. are all great places for triggering thought starters about trending issues.
So what are the recent biggest stories, issues or trends in your sector? Write down the top five.
Which one stands out most to you? Which one are you most vocal and passionate about? Which one can you talk about with authority?
Take that issue and write down how your product or service helps, solves or answers that issue. What’s your opinion on the issue and what do you want to say about it?
TYPICAL MEDIA – your trade, your metro and local newspapers.
One of the best ways to pique a journalist’s interest is to find an unusual angle that makes people say, ‘Really?’
It might be that you’ve noticed people are using your product differently to how it was intended or you simply have a product or service that is inherently quirky.
This story ran recently in the Sun Herald both online and in print. It’s a story about how you can now care for your loved ones at home once they pass.
It ran because it had all the ingredients necessary for a good mainstream consumer story.
It has a quirky angle, data and statistics, a credible spokesperson to talk about the topic, a number of examples of the topic in action (case studies) and good photography to capture the reader’s attention. Most importantly it wasn’t overly commercial.
TYPICAL MEDIA – newspapers, radio, TV, online mags.
A great way of owning a topic is to commission some research. You can do this easily yourself using SurveyMonkey and pushing it out through your social channels and to your network to get respondents. Remember though, the number of people you survey must be substantial e.g. a minimum of 250 people for the study to carry any weight – a survey of three people won’t cut it.
Once you have your results, you can put your brand name into the title of the research eg ‘The [Company Name] xx study’ and the good thing about this is that the journalist has to mention your brand when they talk about the research.
For example, when we launched Blue Badge mobility scooter insurance, we interviewed 250 mobility scooter users about what made them feel unsafe when they were out and about on their scooters. The answers ranged from crossing roads, to cars reversing from driveways to broken or no footpaths to lack of ramps on footpaths.
We then issued the findings as ‘The Blue Badge Mobility Scooter Safety and Insurance Study’ together with an overall safety awareness story calling on car drivers to be more aware of mobility scooter users.
To make the story stretch further, we broke the stats down per state so we had specific news for papers in each state eg NSW users were scared of crossing roads whereas VIC users were fed up with the state of their footpaths.
We found scooter users who were willing to talk about their fears, some of whom had suffered injuries from accidents; we issued safety tips for both users and the general public and included stats on the number of users that were not insured or incorrectly believed their home and contents insurance covered them, so we could mention the new insurance product as part of the story.
We put our spokesperson forward to talk about the research and to give out the safety tips. This worked particularly well for radio.
Even better, you can use your research to spot a trend in behaviour that others haven’t identified yet.
TYPICAL MEDIA – your trade media, local and metro newspapers, radio, TV, online mags.
These stories use the seasons, occasions like Christmas or Valentine’s Day or official days like International Women’s Day or World Gin Day to create an interesting angle.
This makes your story relevant and gives it a sense of urgency.
Say you have a product that helps to rid the house of dust mites that cause asthma in children, then using Asthma Awareness Day to talk about the issue is a good call.
Just remember you can’t just promote your product, you still need to build a strong story around the issue. Has asthma increased in families in recent years?
What’s causing it? What can families do about it? Then you can talk about how you have developed a product to combat this particular issue.
Perhaps you’ve created a dating app or an ‘anti-dating’ app, then Valentine’s Day might be a good one for you. Why did you develop the app? What’s your perspective on dating in Australia?
Or maybe you’re creating a special product for Christmas like a special Christmas gin like Four Pillars has for the last two years.
TYPICAL MEDIA – your trade media, newspapers, radio, TV, mags, online mags.
NOW IT'S TIME TO BUILD YOUR STORY
Now that you’ve quickly read through the types of story, it’s time for you to work out what yours is.
We will already have chatted about this in your video response and given you a good indication of what we think your strongest story angle is.
For future reference when you go through this process next time on your own, always put your story idea through the ‘so what?’ filter; would anyone care, is what I’m saying new, is it interesting and can I back it up?
We'll now show you how to build your story from the ground up and how to collate your assets.
We liken building a story to baking a cake. You need the right mix of ingredients to create the finished article.
Flour on its own isn’t a cake nor are eggs, butter or sugar, but put them all together with some know-how and you have a cake.
Likewise, your basic product message on its own isn’t a story, but add in some background on the problem your product solves and why people need it, a case study of someone using it to improve their world, some new research and data and a spokesperson and it’s starting to look a lot like a story a journalist would run.
So how do you go about building that strong story? Let's run through the elements. The last tab 'Example' shows you how a real client used this to work out the elements. At the very end, you can download the next worksheet.
This is the crux of your story, so it’s either a quirky angle, a seasonal story, you’re releasing some new research and you’ve spotted a new trend, you’re chiming in on a discussion already being had or it’s your business story.
Think carefully about what the hook is. Not what do you want the story to be about, but what would the audience want to read about? Why should they care? How can you turn what you want to say into something that’s newsworthy?
As part of the story, you can talk about what your product does but it’s really important that you talk first about the problem your product or service solves.
Is there any research and data you can use to give your story an extra level of credibility? It will help the journalist craft an article rooted in actual fact rather than just opinion. We’re not talking about a massive study commissioned by you here, but simply a couple of statistics that can back up what you’re saying.
It’s perfectly ok to reference existing reports and published studies so long as you credit the source.
You can also do your own research and release the findings, however, the number of people you survey must be 250 or more.
Always put forward a credible spokesperson to speak on behalf of your company and explain what you do.
They are typically the CEO or founder and they should know your product and the industry inside and out.
You will use quotes from your spokesperson in your media materials to give opinion not substantiated by facts. It gives you leeway to use anecdotal evidence eg ‘We believe that people want to make their own choices on x, y, z.’
They should also be comfortable talking to radio, TV and print media. Don't freak out, it's ok, you don’t have to be media trained. The media know you're not a media commentator and they will go easy on you. Just make sure you practice some questions and answers with a colleague so you become comfortable with talking about your product.
An expert opinion that is not your own is gold. It gives the journalist an independent person to talk to and makes your story more rounded and less one-sided.
If you can save the journalist the job of having to find an independent expert themselves, someone who can talk about the problem your business solves in general, it’s another tick on the checklist to getting your story to run.
If you look at the story below on news.com.au, you’ll see it’s about the launch of a friendship app and it includes a comment from a psychologist and an expert on communications at a university on why people feel the need for connection. If you can provide this kind of expert, you save the journalist time in finding one and make it easier for them to say yes to writing your story.
The success of building a strong story is based on making the issue personal to as many people as possible. How do you show people that your product or service makes their lives better, easier, happier, more streamlined?
One way is to put a spotlight on someone who has experienced the problem; someone your product is helping and who is willing to talk about the issue from their personal experience. We call this person a case study.
If you are planning to approach metro newspapers, try to find a case study in each state. A Sydney paper won’t be interested in talking to someone from Melbourne; they want someone from their own state.
Often the launch case study is you!
What spurred you to give up your day job to make this work? How did you come with the idea; how did you spot the problem in the first place? Your back-story and the often bumpy road to launch can be the talking point that adds the colour.
For print and online media, the photo that goes with the story is almost as important as the content of the story.
What will your photo be?
For business media, it could be you as the founder with your product. For consumer media, it could be your case study with your product.
Think about the setting too. How can you bring your product to life and easily explain what it’s about? Can you show your product in action.
And if you’re hoping to get a story on TV, then it’s all about the footage that brings your story to life (we will explain more later).
Here’s an example of an Australian company's launch story that ran in the Australian media across The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Brisbane Times, Canberra Times and WA Today because it had all the right ingredients. Oh and these guys used our kit to make it happen, so you can too!
Ingredients check list:
Baxter Blue glasses
New launch story about digital eye strain and how they created a stylish product to solve this problem for people that don’t have prescription glasses.
They used stats about digital eye strain that have already been published.
They included quotes on their opinion of the situation and made themselves readily available for interview.
They put forward Dr Kristy Goodwin, the author of Raising Your Child in a Digital World, who recommends Baxter Blue glasses for children with sleep issues as their independent expert.
Their colour was their own experience of digital eye strain and their concern for their children too.
The photo was a simple, but professionally shot, image of the founders with their product.
Fill in the worksheet to see how you can build your story.
It will help you work out what assets you already have to give the media and what you still need
to collate i.e. what’s your photo going to be; do you have some good statistics you can use?
You will use these answers to write your media release in the next step.
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