By Susanna Kalnes, Senior Associate
Public relations is an incredibly rewarding and fun profession to be in because not only do you learn something new every single day, but you are also challenged to use your creativity constantly. When your job is to create news headlines – sometimes out of thin air – you enter into a relationship with life and your surroundings that is very similar to a journalist’s mindset. You learn to think in “who, what, when, where, whys,” of course, and are continuously on the hunt for a new storyline, compelling perspective, and credible claim to make.
One might argue that after years and years in the media relations business, this type of mindset becomes a way of life and one that a passionate PR person, like myself, thrives on daily. But where the real fun comes into play is when you realize that an organic news story – and a really good one, at that – can be derived from anyone. (Gasp! Did she really say that? Oh yes, she did…and she’d say it again.)
Everyone is Newsworthy
Before you discount me as crazy for making the above statement, allow me to explain the process that I use to generate a news story. And in true PR form, I’ll package it up for you in five, clearly-defined steps.
Step 1: Listen for the unique. I believe that all PR people should be inquisitive by nature, but the really good ones are those who engage in all conversations with a specific intent in mind: to listen for unique “nuggets” of information. This sometimes means going off script to avoid cookie-cutter responses and story lines. For instance, when interviewing a CEO, I don’t ask her exclusively about her job as CEO. I ask her about her passions, hobbies, routines, opinions on current events, and more. I see what makes my interviewee tick and I place emphasis there.
Step 2: Follow the unique nugget. This is where things get interesting. In my line of questioning, as as soon as that first unique “nugget” of info is spotted, I shift gears and start asking follow up questions to expand on that topic. Chances are, if it’s incredibly interesting to me, it may also be to others. So, my job then is to further investigate and see what types of news hooks reveal themselves. Specifically, I’m seeking news hooks that fall info a few different categories: features, trends, unique perspectives, educational items/tips, and information that would be “relatable” to a specific audience. This leads me to the next step…
Step 3: Consider the target. In real time, as I’m exploring a specific topic or “nugget” of interest, I’m also considering the target audience(s). I ask myself who would be interested in this information, what types of media outlets target those types of people, and how would I be able to get my key messages looped into that story. If I feel that I have satisfying answers to all of those internal questions, I skip to the fifth step. If not, I proceed to…
Step 4: Go fish! Oftentimes, after I’ve completed the first three steps, I find myself in a place of discontent. There is something that isn’t quite clicking with the news hook I formulated from my first unique nugget of information. And at that point, simply put, it’s time to go fish, meaning it’s time to start from scratch with a new line of questioning to walk down a completely different path, seeking new ideas and hooks. Eventually, a new one will always appear.
Step 5: Share your thoughts. This is my absolute favorite part of the process. Once I’ve identified my news hook and the target audience(s), I share my thoughts on-the-spot, in real time, with the person I’m interviewing. I offer the news headline I’m envisioning and explain why the topic is so interesting. Once this disclosure happens, a wonderful collaborate process unfolds and my interviewee often gets excited and adds important information that makes my story pitch even stronger. I take careful note of his or her unique perspective and then go back to my desk to finetune a pitch and research a potential journalist who may want to cover this story.
This process, over time, becomes second nature for a PR person and a steadfast method for creating real and meaningful news for a business, entity or individual. It’s a bit time consuming, sure, but well worth it once you see real headlines start to appear. And that, my friends, is truly rewarding!