What Makes a Great News Story?

Share This

By Susanna Kalnes, Senior Associate


What makes a great news story?  As PR professionals, this question is so engrained in our brains, it’s constantly circulating our thoughts as we engage in conversation.   We are trained to ask penetrating questions, think creatively, and listen for “hidden gems” in conversation that could lead to potential headlines.  This is just how our minds operate.

I think it’s safe to say that we are intrinsically aware of what makes a great news story, and we should be!   It’s our careers, after all.  But is that enough? Maybe for some…but not for us.

At MSR, we like to go the extra step and educate our clients about the pitch process, how journalists interact, and what ultimately secures positive news coverage.  That process begins by breaking down the elements of a great news story.

  1. It’s Brand New. If you search your story idea on the internet and another article pops up with the same topic, it’s likely not going to turn into a news story. Why? Because reporters are seeking new  They’re looking for stories that are so current and so timely, they haven’t been told before – ever.  We don’t want to offer “yesterday’s news” for next week’s headlines.


  1. It’s Creative. Some journalists get hundreds of story pitches a day. Hundreds!  Can you even imagine? That’s why it’s so important that your story stands out in the crowd.  Stories that are “outside the box” or have a particular “shock and awe factor” tend to be of particular interest.  You can test this by talking to strangers about your story idea.  If they ask lots of follow up questions, it’s a good sign that your story could make the news!  If they fall asleep, it’s probably not going to happen.


  1. It’s Relevant. When brainstorming a potential story angle, it’s imperative that the story is appropriate for the media outlet you are targeting. Before you just say, “I want to be on Ellen,” make sure the content you have to offer aligns with the target audience and is presented in a way that mimics the media outlet’s structure or format.  You’ll find that some media outlets apply to your story idea and others don’t.  That’s ok!  Just make sure you focus on the right ones.


  1. It’s Educational. So now you have a story idea that’s new, creative and relevant – but will your story provide education, too?  When readers or viewers see your story, will they actually learn something?   What is the takeaway?  If the answer is clear, you’ve achieved all four elements of a great story and are ready to engage in communication with reporters!


I encourage you to use this blog post as a checklist for your business or organization, and if you have a story to share that embodies all of the above characteristics, what are you waiting for?  A fantastic news story could be right around the corner!  Please contact us at pr@msrcommunications.com for more information.