The 7-Question
Newsworthiness Acid Test


Like many professional services firms, you want to see your research and thinking featured in top-tier financial media such as The Wall Street Journal or the Financial Times. You know that's what has the most influence over the decision makers who matter to you.

But your expertise counts merely as table stakes in the tough world of news. The bad news: not everything that may be valuable or important to you is necessarily newsworthy. The reporting cycle has its own needs.

The news gets better when you understand how journalists determine what's newsworthy. You can translate your expertise into messages that cut through the media clutter. As the head of a global PR and communications agency that works with leading firms including Bain & Company, the global business consulting firm, that's what clients ask me most often: "how can we get this in the news?"

If you're like those clients and are seeking to have your firm's research and thought leadership featured in the top-tier financial media, or for that matter in important trade, broadcast, online, national or local media, you can crack the code if you learn how to offer what the media want.

Take this 7-question newsworthiness acid test to gauge your odds of being successful.

Imagine a point of view you think should be gaining media traction and give yourself one point for every honest, objective "yes" as you read along.

The 7-Question Newsworthiness Acid Test


1
Is your thought leadership relevant specifically for the audiences of the outlets
and journalists you're targeting?

The media is a vast universe. Your research or point of view must align with the story-writing needs and editorial missions of the media that you're targeting. So, for example, if your business research doesn't show a direct link to the bottom-line, then your PR person's pitch will likely fall on deaf ears at The Wall Street Journal or Bloomberg News. If your point of view is on a global business trend, you may not get a strong reception from journalists at the Chicago Tribune or Atlanta Journal-Constitution, unless you can be specific about how it affects readers and companies in those metropolitan areas. Or, if your analysis focuses on in-depth operational concerns of a specific industry, you will almost certainly see better play from a top trade magazine than from The Economist or Fortune.

2
Is it tied to the current news cycle?

When journalists, and their editors, are considering whether to write a story, the first question is whether this is a story "we need to write about now?" in addition to whether the story is interesting in general terms. In other words, your point of view may be addressing an important topic, but it may not be time bound, and therefore be something that a reporter could turn to at a future point in time. Keep in mind that the 'news hole' (i.e., the amount of space in a newspaper or broadcast news show that remains for journalism after advertising has been placed) is very limited, so assignment editors are stricter and stricter about what they will consider running. Your thinking and research will find much more traction if it can be framed as a way to help explain breaking news. If you have research about holiday spending trends, for example, it will play better if you release it before the stores have put up decorations, not after the season has ended.

3
Is it a forward-looking perspective?

Readers of financial and trade media want insight that helps them decide what to do. Therefore, another key determinant for reporters and editors is whether your research or point of view is forward-looking. The description of history is almost never newsworthy, though can be used in passing to establish context. Instead, releasing something that is truly "new to the world" or making a prediction of what may be on the horizon will help in your efforts to secure coverage. And also, don't hesitate over the fact that you don't have a crystal ball. In over a decade of promoting business research to media, a reporter has never challenged me or my clients over a prior forecast that was then changed or never came to pass.

4
Does it debunk a myth or change the game?

Reporters are always on the lookout for ways to refute a popular belief or transform the way the public thinks about a particular topic. It can't just be a new finding with a small incremental difference from what people already believe. As an example, in research that Bain & Company's Healthcare Practice conducted several years back, it found that the total cost of developing and commercializing a drug cost $1.7 billion. That was more than two-times the conventionally accepted wisdom of that time. It was a real game changer, and our PR team was able to package and promote those findings to great acclaim, varying it to interest the readers of the top-tier financial, premium broadcast, and most widely-read trade media.

5
Does it contain proprietary data and analysis?

It takes a lot of time and effort to create enough brand reputation that your opinions themselves are news. Your point of view will more likely gain traction with proprietary research and data. If your simply have a set of assertions or offer analysis of already-available third party data, it will be a high hurdle for your PR team to promote with the media, who may well have access to the same sources or same brand of calculator that you used. You can amp your chances of coverage even further if you avoid the bean-counter trap of dry stats that fail to paint a picture. My team regularly inserts 'social statistics' to help readers grasp data more easily: how many times a quantity would fill Giants Stadium, or how many multiples of Greece's GDP would equal a loss in industry profits, or how many times around the circumstance of Earth a distance would cover.

6
Does it reveal a broad trend?

Reporters in the financial media generally do not generally include expert insights when they cover stories that focus on a single company change or event. They usually go straight to the company for comment in those situations. As it is, you may not find it much in your interest to be quoted about companies who are now or could at some point be your clients. In other words, case studies fall flat, and "verdicts" can have unintended consequences. But, all but the most senior reporters in most cases can only write about facts or things that someone has said to them that can be reported as facts. So, when you can show a demonstrable pattern is occurring, and you have data to back it up, that translates to news, and provides quotes that can be reported. And the more your trend cuts across industries and/or geographic boundaries, the greater the news value for internationally reputed media. A study of global trade flows will have much broader appeal than production data for a single industry in a single market.

7
Does it have social media sharing potential?

Media outlets and individual reporters pay enormous attention to the social sharing potential of their stories. Circulation numbers are starting to look more like a quaint artifact from last century. The new math of media comes down to clicks, shares, and page views. Think of how many outlets highlight "most read" and "most shared" articles on their home pages. Quotable language and fresh insights encourage more people to push the button and share content on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and email. If you can help deliver that result with solid, innovative research and noteworthy messages, reports and editors will be grateful and will come back to you for more.


How close to seven points was your acid test result? Most professional services only get a 2 or 3 when they take a first pass. The trick is this: it's always easier to design newsworthiness into your content before your research and analysis are conducted, rather than making a large investment only to realize that it is devoid of any chance of media attention. Sometimes it's as simple as adding just a question or two informed by the expertise of your PR advisors on what receives media traction.

If you'd like to learn more about Atwood Partners and how we've helped professional services leaders like Bain & Company build their reputations globally over the past 12 years, please visited our website at www.atwoodpartners.com, or feel free to call Frank Pinto, Atwood Partners Managing Partner, at (917) 309-1065, or frank.pinto@atwoodpartners.com