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The Elements of Newsworthiness

Updated: Oct 14, 2021

As we get the ball rolling on our scopes of work this semester, many of us will be pitching media members to gain coverage for our clients and it is imperative to know the key elements of what makes a story newsworthy. To capture the attention of a journalist and write an enthralling pitch letter or press release, it is crucial to incorporate any of the following elements: Timeliness, Relevance, Impact, Proximity, Prominence, Oddity, Conflict, Newness or Continuity.

When brainstorming your pitch ideas, ask yourself the following questions. Remember, not all elements will apply to every pitch you write but the more you can incorporate, the more likely you are to successfully earn media placement!

Timeliness - Is this a current event/issue? The media and readers will have more interest in a story when it is about a recent event/issue as opposed to one that happened in the past.

  • For example, you are pitching a health journalist at The Charlotte Observer about an outbreak of COVID-19 cases at a local restaurant over the weekend. Since this incident just occurred, this is a timely story.

Relevance - What does this event/issue mean? Why is it important? Know your public. If a story is not relevant to your journalist/target public's interests, it will not capture their attention. Also, be mindful of external events that are taking place around the world.

  • For example, say you are pitching a local journalist at The Chicago Tribune about your client's new partnership but there is a crisis taking place that requires more attention, the relevance of your story may be insignificant and will not grab the journalist's attention.

Impact - How will this event/issue affect the reader? If a story includes benefits or consequences, a journalist will feel intrigued to continue reading and learn more.

  • For example, you are pitching a food and drink journalist at Thrillist New York about the grand opening of a restaurant where guests will receive a complimentary round of drinks and dessert with their meal. Since this offer is beneficial to the readers, it will attract the journalist's attention.

Proximity - Is this event/issue close to home? If you are writing a story about an event/issue taking place in an insignificant or far location, it will not be of much importance to the journalist you are pitching.

  • For example, you are pitching a lifestyle journalist at The Daily News Record about a boutique in Long Island, NY. Since this boutique is over 400 miles away, the story is not relevant to the journalist or media outlet.

Prominence - Does this event/issue involve a celebrity or popular brand? Events/issues that involve celebrities and brands always tend to be more newsworthy.

  • For example, you are pitching a lifestyle journalist at the Miami Herald about the SHEIN pop-up in Downtown Miami. Given that SHEIN is a popular brand, a story about the pop-up would generate impressive impressions and engagement.

Oddity - Is this event/issue out of the ordinary? Unique stories capture the attention of readers. Consider the “Man Bites Dog” formula. We’ve all heard of a dog attacking a person once or twice but not the other way around.

  • For example, you are pitching an environmental journalist at The Washington Post as the Brood X cicadas are beginning to make an appearance in the state of Virginia. Since these insects only appear once every 17 years, this is out of the ordinary and an interesting topic for a journalist to write about.

Conflict - Is this event/issue causing drama? Stories involving disagreement have the tendency to stir the pot. Active readers are interested in gossip.

  • For example, you are pitching an entertainment journalist at Teen Vogue about a recent Tik Tok scandal. Given that Tik Tok is in the media spotlight right now, these conflicts between famous “Tik Tokers” generate a lot of buzz from the Gen Z population, making this a great story for a journalist to write.

Newness - Is this event/issue new? Or old things in a new light? New things are amusing and old things with a new concept can also spark the interest of journalists.

  • For example, you are pitching a travel writer at Time Out Portland about a newly renovated 5-star hotel that just reopened post-COVID. You know that this hotel was a huge hit pre-COVID, so the renovation will make for a great story.

Continuity - Has this event/issue been previously spoken about? Continuity typically comes into play when new information is being released about an unfinished story.

  • For example, you are pitching a crime journalist at the New York Post about the recent Gabby Petito case with the latest information that your firm has leaked. This new information presents the journalist with an opportunity to inform the public of the vital details everyone has been waiting to hear.

Implementing any of the above key elements into your pitch letter and understanding who your public is will help you to achieve success when pitching. Do not get discouraged if your pitch is not responded to or a journalist is not interested in your story! There is an ample amount of journalists in the U.S. and across the world looking for a great story to write right now. You are capable of anything!

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