Earlier this month, I wrote this article for the Guardian about miscarriage - specifically on whether we need to talk more about it at work.
I knew it would do well online; it was Baby Loss Awareness week and miscarriage is a subject close to many peoples’ hearts.
But even I was surprised how popular it was.
In just over a week it had over 10,000 social shares - making it the most shared article I have ever written.
I received dozens of personal tweets, emails and private messages thanking me for writing the article. The following day, I got a call from a researcher at BBC Radio Scotland who asked me to take part in a debate on the topic.
And, even though the article was not about my business (I make just a brief mention of what I do in the piece), I saw big spike in my website traffic, social media followers and engagement.
I share this because it’s powerful lesson on what makes a great media story (and what doesn’t).
Last night, I was fortunate enough to have Harriet Minter, the editor of the Guardian’s Women in Leadership section (where my article appeared) as a guest at a Soulful PR session (you can grab a ticket for the next one here).
This is how Harriet explained it:
"When someone pitches me an idea, I ask myself three questions:
- Is it ‘newsy’?
- Is it personal?
- Does it surprise me?
A good story should have all three."
So let’s break my article down according to those guidelines.
Is it ‘newsy’? Yes - it was ‘hooked’ onto baby loss awareness week (although you do need to exercise caution with awareness weeks, as I explain here)
Is it personal? Yes - I wrote about my own experience of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy
Does it surprise? Yes - I share some surprising stories from friends/colleagues who have also experienced miscarriage
You may be wondering how this can help you with your PR. After all, it’s not every day you have the opportunity to pitch a story about such an emotive subject.
This is true, but I believe you can apply those principles to any story you pitch to the media - because it's simply about giving editors the kind of content their audience wants.
Take this piece by Alexia who is campaigning for the popular UK TV series One Born Every Minute (which features women’s birth experiences) to be banned. Love or hate the sentiment behind this story - and it’s certainly divisive - it ticks all the boxes when it come to what makes a great media story.
It’s ‘newsy’ because Alexia has just launched a campaign, personal because she is sharing her experience of a fear free birth and surprising because campaigning against a much-loved TV programme is quite a controversial thing to do.
But you don’t have to be controversial. Take this recent Huffington Post article on how to bring Danish Hygge (rough translation: ‘cosy’) into your home this winter.
It’s ‘newsy’ simply because winter is coming, personal because Melanie is sharing her experience as an expat living in Denmark and it’s surprising in the sense there’s something new to learn for the reader.
Or this one by Karen Laing, which argues that it’s stress - not our desire to drop a dress size - is what really motivates us to keep exercising.
It’s ‘newsy’ because it references new research, personal because Karen is sharing her own experiences of using exercise to tackle stress and surprising because she's challenging commonly held beliefs.
It’s worth pointing out here that what editors regard as ‘newsy’ will vary according to the publication or programme (which is why you need to do your homework before you pitch).
But it is a reminder of the most important thing you need to know about PR: if you want to get media coverage for your business or brand, you need to stop talking about it. And here's more tips on how to get journalists to write about your business.
When you stop trying to persuade journalists to write about your business and start creating story ideas that allow you to show what you know or the mission and values behind your business or brand, magical things start to happen (if you don't believe me, try it for yourself).
Not does this approach make it far easier to get a ‘yes’ from a journalist, as my miscarriage story shows, it also means the PR you get works harder for your business - helping you attract more social media followers, driving traffic to your website and/or sign ups to your email list.