With hundreds of media releases crossing a journalist’s desk every day, your media release has to have immediate impact to avoid being ‘filed’ straight into the bin.

What makes news?

No-one really knows what news is. Experienced people can smell it but they can’t describe it.

Try the cocktail-party test. If people prick up their ears when you explain your research at a party, there’s a good chance that it’s a good news story.

10 characteristics of a good news story

Give the journalist a reason to be interested in your story. Try to combine several of these points of interest:

  1. It’s the ‘so what’ factor. The media is interested in how a scientist’s work will change the lives of their readers and viewers. They are much less interested in the clever science that went into the work. Focus more on the implications of the research, such as its value to the economy, than the research itself. What’s the bottom line? If you are publicising an event, emphasise the consequences of the event more than the event itself. Make the story relevant to a wide audience.
  2. Something that happened yesterday is more newsy than something that happened a week ago. If you are talking about old news, dress it up so that you focus on the timeless implication of the event, not the fact that it happened a week or more ago.
  3. Action says that people are doing something, rather than thinking or expressing opinions. Try to find concrete examples.
  4. A story is more newsworthy when there is a change component – evidence that, as a result of X, things are not the same any more.
  5. The media likes arguments! Given the problem/solution nature of science, try to use this aspect of the media to your advantage.
  6. The media likes to deal with the concrete rather than the abstract. Give a tangible example to illustrate your work, rather than talking about generalities.
  7. The media will always give precedence to a story with local implications.
  8. People and organisations. Some people and organisations are more newsworthy than others. As a representative of a credible organisation, you can attract more media attention than a private citizen. The science minister may be able to attract more media attention than you.
  9. The media believes that people hate to hear about other people’s suffering, good fortune or misfortune, but love to read about it or see it. Tell your story in ‘people’ terms.
  10. The more infrequently an incident occurs, the more newsworthy it is. Being ‘first in the world’ or ‘first in Australia’ will get your story noticed.