January 12, 2021
Learn what makes a story newsworthy with our host, Jason Mudd. Jason is the managing partner of Axia Public Relations.
Jason Mudd, On Top of PR host, helps companies get on Undercover Boss. He is a trusted adviser and dynamic strategist for some of America’s most admired brands. Since 1994, he’s worked with American Airlines, Budweiser, Dave & Buster’s, H&R Block, Hilton, HP, Miller Lite, New York Life, Pizza Hut, Southern Comfort, and Verizon. He founded Axia Public Relations in July 2002.
The one with Jason Mudd on how to make sure your story is newsworthy.
Also available on
Five things you’ll learn from this episode:
What the 10 elements of news are
How you can proactively address the timeliness of your news
What consequences could be considered newsworthy
Why human interest is almost always local
How the 10 elements of news can apply to other communications
“The more legitimate, genuine elements of news your story has, the better it’s going to be.” — @jasonmudd9
“The news media loses interest quickly, and events that happened in the past become stale when there’s always something new and fresh going on somewhere else.” — @jasonmudd9
“The best thing you have in business is your reputation, and your reputation comes from integrity. So always protect that integrity with your communication and with your PR.” — @jasonmudd9
If you enjoyed the episode, would you please leave us a review?
Presented by: ReviewMaxer, the platform for monitoring, improving, and promoting online customer reviews.
Hi, this is Jason. And welcome to another episode of On Top of PR. Today, I'm sharing with you about the 10 elements of news and what makes something newsworthy. This is by far one of the top three blog posts on our website, and I wanted to walk you through that in today's solo cast. Here we go.
- [Presenter] Welcome to On Top of PR with Jason Mudd presented by ReviewMaxer.
- Hi, it's Jason Mudd with another episode of On Top of PR. Welcome, I'm so glad you're here. Today we are doing, what's called a solo cast where it's just you and me talking one-on-one. There's no guests, it's only me. And I'm sharing some of my expertise in public relations with you to help you get better at what you're doing in your current role. And I'm really glad you're here. I think you'll be glad you're here also because we're gonna talk about what is a very popular blog post on our website called the 10 Elements of News or What is Newsworthy. And when I was in journalism school, this was a handout, something that was very commonly referenced and used throughout the J School at the university of Missouri, School of Journalism which is arguably considerably claim to be the best journalism school in the world the first journalism school in the world. And really I had a great experience being a student there at their program and using what they call the Missouri Method which is a very hands on approach to journalism where every student had to be involved in laboratory real world like experience where the university owns several media outlets including an NBC affiliate TV station, a daily newspaper, a magazine, and an advertising agency as well. So while I was there, we talked a lot about the 10 elements of news and newsworthiness, but then a few years ago about five, six, seven eight years ago, I discovered that there's not really a good spot to go online and find this information. So we built up a blog post out there and I wanted to walk you through this real quick cause I think it's really important. And there is a lot of questions around what is newsworthy and what makes a story, something that would get coverage and that would appear in a newspaper, magazine, TV station broadcast of any kind or on a website. So let's just get right into it. So how would you define the term newsworthy? So what makes a story newsworthy is one of these 10 elements and the more elements that your story has the more newsworthy it is. Now, I've mentioned this in previous podcasts. You want to be careful not to stuff in more elements of news than necessary, but the more legitimate, genuine elements of news, your story has the better it's going to be. Good news stories usually have more than one of these elements. Usually three is a good number to strive for. So the very element of news is called proximity. And you probably know what proximity means but if you think about it's location, location location, just like in real estate. So if a event is happening nearby it'll impact the audience more than if it were happening somewhere else that doesn't affect them as much. An example of this might be that if you're based in Boston you're probably not as interested in breaking news that's local to Sacramento, California than you would be something that's happening in your neighborhood or a neighboring neighborhood, or even within your State. So the closer news is happening to you you're a lot more interested. You're a lot more interested that there was a car broken into or a house broken into or car stolen in the proximity it is to your neighborhood than you would be interested in a car being broken into 500 miles away. Also, you're a lot more interested in the state of affairs, likely in your own country where you live or have residents than you would be in an obscure country that you've never heard of or never been to, or don't have friends or family there. The second element of news is prominence, right? So a well known person, place or event has a stronger news angle than something that the audience isn't familiar with. So for example, you go to the grocery store and the tabloid magazines are there and they have celebrities and well known people on the cover. And if it's not a well known person then it's somebody with a really unique and special newsworthy story to be told that you might be informed and educated about that you didn't know anything about before, but they've got a really great story either overcoming the odds or facing adversity or, you know, being at the right place at the right time or saving someone's life or something like that. Those are very interesting stories. We'll get into those being human interest stories or stories with impact as are other elements of news, but you don't typically go by the newsstands and the news rack and you see something or a name or a person or a place or a celebrity or a business executive or a star that you've never heard of before. And so that's because that person's level of prominence is either low, medium or high. A guest speaker visiting your local elementary school to take over story time probably doesn't resonate with as many people unless that speaker is Oprah, Oprah Winfrey, or Tom cruise or somebody else who's famous, you know, like that. So, you know, if it's a popular musician or a famous entertainer or a politician then that person is obviously much more prominent. You know, if a regular Joe was hospitalized that's not nearly as interesting if you know the President of the United States was hospitalized. And that's just an example of news, unfortunately. And then the third element of news is timeliness. So current news has more impact than something that happened yesterday, last week and especially last month. The news media loses interest quickly and events that happened in the past become stale when there's always something new and fresh going on somewhere else. And so an example of that is I've seen news releases that other agencies write or other companies are writing. And it says something like, you know, it leads with last month, the board voted to do this, well last month, why didn't you tell me about that last month, right? You know, or yesterday this was decided or whatever. You really should lead with some and certainly, you know, if it's an October and you're talking about something that happened in July, that is not very newsworthy either because of how much time has passed by. So be careful when you're writing your media pitches or your news releases or whatever it might be. Don't lead with something that happened weeks ago or even a week ago, try to find that lead that ties it into the moment to right now. So the timeliness is being addressed proactively. The element of news number four is called oddity. If something is unusual, shocking, or bizarre, the strangeness alone might make it newsworthy. And so, you know if, you know, if a UFO was spotted or, you know if somebody was able to survive an incredible accident or overcame incredible odds or just something odd happened or unusual. And all you gotta do is think back to 2020 and all the weird events that have happened in that year. There's so much oddity there that that's why we're seeing so many strange things in the news. People are always saying, you know the world is crazy right now, or there's so much of this and so much of that going on. Well, the truth is those occurrences are still odd and the fact that they're odd raises their profile in the newsroom to becoming more newsworthy and therefore one of our fourth element of news. So the fifth element of news is consequence. If the impact of an event may directly affect your audience they'll want to know about it. So when there was a break in, at the Watergate Hotel, it was basically white noise on the airwaves until it was revealed that the identities of these individuals were key players in a political party and associated with the President of the United States that had a significant impact for the entire nation versus there just being a robbery you know, a robbery that might happen you know, every day in Washington DC, for example. So it really cut through the clutter because this had consequences on the presidency. It had consequences on our nation, on our history, on folks who went to jail over it, who were very prominent and well known individuals and, you know, a stain in the eye to a presidency, a stain on a political party that lasted for generations and will continue to do so. So consequences are fifth element of news. And we're gonna talk about the other five elements when we come back from the other side of this break.
- [Presenter] You are listening to On Top of PR with your host, Jason Mudd. Jason is a trusted advisor to some of America's most admired and fastest growing brands. He is the managing partner at Axia Public Relations, a PR agency that guides news, social and web strategies for national companies. And now back to the show.
- Welcome back, I'm Jason Mudd with Axia Public Relations, your host for On Top of PR. Thank you for joining me today, as we're going through the 10 elements of news and what makes a news story newsworthy. This is one of our most popular blog posts. And so I wanted to spend some time in this solo cast, walking through the 10 elements of news with you, helping you understand better what makes news, why certain stories are newsworthy and make it onto the television news shows, make it into newspapers and websites and magazines versus the stories you might be trying to pitch to the media that they are walking away from or turning down or saying, no, thank you. Or just not getting back to you. The more elements of news, your news stories have and your media pitches and your news releases have the more likely you're going to get coverage. So I'm walking you through this 10 to help you identify what is your news at your company and what news your organization has and what news is worth sharing. And what news might just be kept to your internal communications and your employee newsletters versus being interesting and relevant to people outside your building, and your company, your external audiences. So of those elements of news, we've run through the first five. And those first five were proximity, prominence, timeliness, oddity, and consequence. Now we're moving on to the sixth element of news, conflict. Conflict and so you should know that audience are always interested in disagreements, arguments and rivalries. If an event had a conflict attached to it, many consumers will be interested on that basis alone. Let's not forget it's human nature to choose sides and stand up for their choice. Stories that involve conflict include those about religion, sports, business, trials, murders, wars, human rights violations, politics and even struggles against nature, animal, outer space and more, you know, even things that just happen against you know, gravity, for example, you know, and motion and the like, you know, are, are very interesting. So, you know, when there's a presidential debate for example, right, there's always conflict. There's always, you know adversity when people are fighting amongst themselves whether it's a scandal or a hostile takeover or a lawsuit for example, you know, that's an element of news that's very interesting. And so when there's a conflict of interest or parties are not getting along, that attracts news some people would say that's sensational, but you know there's a saying in journalism, if it bleeds, it leads. So, you know, there is an element that is very interesting. Also, there's a saying in journalism, that all news is local. And so we talked about proximity earlier and we're gonna talk right now about human interest. So human interest is almost always something that is is more local, just like proximity and just like impact. So speaking of human interests, the seventh element of news if a situation draws any sort of emotional response it might contain news elements of a human interest story. And I mentioned earlier like when you're going through the grocery store and you're hitting the register and you're putting your things on the belt, there's a magazine rack and those magazine racks, if it's not a celebrity on there, it's gonna be a human interest story. And people are very interested in celebrities for good or bad. And so you'll see actually a lot of business industry trade magazines like Franchise Times and food and beverage magazine and even engineering and construction magazines. They've told us when we can put a celebrity on our cover of our magazine, readership is up both online and in print and on the newsstands. So it benefits them for good or bad to have a celebrity or a human interest side. And so these human interest stories that can be soft you know, kid at the petting zoo snapshots, inspiring comeback accounts or infuriating reports of incompetence on a part of a public figure. It could also be as I mentioned earlier, somebody just overcoming the odds somebody who is just an average Joe, who was at the right place at the right time and made the right effort to save a life or sacrificed his life or her life for saving a child or helping an animal or somebody who has just lived their entire life serving others, et cetera. So that's human interest. The eighth element of news today for this conversation for this solo cast is gonna be extremes or superlatives. And so reporters and audiences might be interested in the first, the best the longest, the smallest, the highest et cetera, type of superlative if you can legitimately claim one and it's gotta be legitimate and it's gotta be credible, be careful. Don't overly focus on this. Don't create fake hype or exaggerate claims. Dishonesty will come back to bite you. The best thing you have in business is your reputation and your reputation comes from integrity. So always protect that integrity with your communication and with your PR. But hey, if you're the first company to offer this or you're the first company to solve this problem if you're the first company to come up with a vaccination for the pandemic if you're the first company to make this size of the biggest donation ever if you were able to climb the highest mountain peak if you were able to find the smallest, you know if your company was able to create the smallest piece of technology or the smallest semiconductor, or you discovered, you know the smallest human remains ever, or something like that that's gonna be very interesting and newsworthy because again, it's an extreme or superlative. Now no surprise, the ninth element of news is scandal. Everyone loves to hate on the floundering congressman who sends inappropriate pictures and reporters will want a scoop on scandal. Scandal oftentimes revolves around human interests, conflict consequence, oddity, prominence, and even proximity. But, you know, I hate to say it everyone loves to hear about a good scandal or gossip. And so news is often covering the scandalous things because they're odd, they're conflicts. They're just what people are interested in. And so for good or bad. So if there's some scandal involved you could be part of the news whether you want to be, or you don't want to be. And I've been involved in both sides of this equation where, you know, maybe a client has gone through a crisis and they'd love to sweep it under the rug but the media won't let them. I've also been in situations where part of a legal settlement is that a company has to confess and admit that they were involved in a scandal and the other party wants to promote the heck out of that and bring as much attention to it as possible so that their competitor looks bad and that they look good. And maybe they look as being a victim and somebody that people might empathize with and want to do business with. The 10th and last element of news for this solo cast and on our blog post of elements of news is gonna be whether it's a peaceful protest that encompasses five blocks or a 52 car pileup on the interstate, the more people involved in the event, the more newsworthy it is. If you're shutting down an interstate in Los Angeles that's a much bigger news story than if you're just shutting down the country road in the middle of a small town, right? So it's all about how many people does this impact, right? And you know, right now we're in the midst of a while I'm recording this we're in the midst of the COVID-19 Corona Virus pandemic and that is a global issue and it is affecting everyone and everyone's way of life and, you know, inconveniencing many people as we're working hard to stay safe and be well. And so obviously that impacts so many people. So, you know, when you think of an outbreak or pandemic, that's automatically newsworthy. In fact, earlier this year I was helping a company that wanted to get media coverage about their biotech product that they've been developing. And we were looking actively for angles, that tie into COVID because of the 10 stories on cnn.com health page of those 10 stories, eight of them were solely and strictly about COVID and only two others were not. And so 80% of the new stories being written we're about COVID because of the impact COVID is having on health and healthcare in America and beyond. And so that's why that those stories were the ones that journalists were looking for. And any other health writer, health reporter health editor, if it wasn't related to COVID it had to be big news for them to even consider it. And so similarly, the number of people affected by an event will affect its newsworthiness whether it's an adjustment to minimum wage or an outbreak of Ebola, or it is the ongoing pandemic. So you really have to think about impact with everything that you're doing when it comes to your corporate communications and your storytelling and your media pitches. As a bonus content, I just want to share one thing. And, you know, Joe Friday on the TV show Dragnet what was he famous for saying he was always famous for saying just the facts ma'am and to a journalist and in a newsroom just the facts are the five W and H right? The five W and H. And that would be who, what, when, where, why and how, and we often forget about the how, but I think that's how is so important because that can be a human interest story. That can be a story with impact. That could be a story with scandal or some of the other 10 elements of news. But again, think about just the facts, right? And make sure your communications and your pitches answer all those facts. The who, what, when, where, why and the, how those six elements should be included. And speaking of elements, let's just run through real quickly the 10 elements of news, as we are wrapping up this solo cast. Element number one is proximity. The second one is prominence. The third is timeliness. Fourth is oddity. Fifth is consequence. Six is conflict. Seven is human interest. Eight is extremes or superlatives. Nine is scandals, and 10 is impact. So when you're writing for newsrooms, or for your newsletter or you're putting together a news release or you're submitting an article make sure you're thinking about these 10 elements of news the five W and H and you're thinking to yourself too, is helpful to the audience? Are we doing more here than just shamelessly self promoting our company our leaders, our products, our services, our expertise our point of view? Are we giving back in some way and adding value to the greater conversation to the greater community, to the industry itself? Are we helping people's lives get better and their job and get better at what they do every day? Are we putting money back in their pockets? Are we showing them ways to save money and live a better life? So these 10 elements of news can apply to many things that you're working on in your corporate communications and marketing and PR efforts. I hope you found this conversation, this solo cast helpful. If so, please share it with others. Please leave us a review, please subscribe. And more importantly just let us know what you wanted to hear about, what you'd like us to talk about on this podcast. We are very open to feedback and we appreciate your feedback and look forward to bringing you more relevant and timely content as we move forward to stay On Top of PR. This is Jason Mudd signing off. Thanks for listening or watching on your preferred platform, be well.
- [Presenter] This has been On Top of PR with Jason Mudd, presented by ReviewMaxer.