What does – and doesn’t – make news?


Just because you announce something in a news release doesn’t actually make it news.

Unfortunately, many organisations don’t get that and they are disappointed and frustrated when the release they have crafted does not generate   publicity. Most often they blame the media when in fact the organisation itself hasn’t understood what actually makes news.

New Zealand’s news landscape is very different to that of many other countries. For a start we have very few outlets and, believe it or not, we don’t have a lot happening that makes hard news.

But these days the media must generate content 24/7.

It’s not uncommon for journalists to be asked to find six or seven stories a day. One print journo I know has the daily grind of finding and writing 2000 words – every day.

So how do you create news and draft a compelling release when you want to announce your business has won an award, or is launching a new service or that you now have a new website?

The answer is twofold:

1. Don’t waste time and money trying to generate news around what simply isn’t news. Take advice on what constitutes news and don’t be offended if that advice says invest your time and energy doing other things to announce/promote your new service/website/whatever. If you constantly bombard the media with boring releases, they will get to know you and switch you off by default.

2. When you really do have something newsy, always look for a ‘human angle’ to wrap the story around. Unless it is hard core business news, news in New Zealand is largely driven by human interest/drama type stories. They fill the front pages of every newspaper and they clutter our screens from 6pm onward.

Our news has become very Woman’s Weekly-like. Whether we, the public, are demanding that style, or whether the media is force-feeding us that kind of story is another issue.

But if you want your story published you need to humanise it and relate whatever you are doing to how it affects the average punter. And remember the average reading age of the average Kiwi is, I’m afraid to say, about 12-14 years. So your ‘news’ must resonate with them.

The test we most often run is “would this story interest someone living in Rotorua? Why would Joe Bloggs in Gore care?” Because that’s how news editors think.

Don’t believe me? Check out this list of Stuff’s and the Herald’s ‘most viewed’ headlines on the day I wrote this:
• Which Real Auckland Housewife are you?
• What’s really in your bedsheets?
• Giulia Salemi and Dayane Mello wear extremely revealing dresses on red carpet.
• ‘A complete and utter scam': Toni Street slams diet pill ads bearing her photos.
• And my favourite (for obvious reasons) – Study reveals bad news for bald men.

So if you want to know what does make news, read the media. They set the tone. If we want publicity, we need to understand and feed the beast.