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To Pitch or Not to Pitch: What Makes A Story

September 25, 2014

So you want media coverage, preferably on the front page or the first screen.  But is your story newsworthy enough?  You have to ask yourself some challenging questions to figure that out.

How wonderful, or how shameful.  Those two phrases could describe most of the news we consume.  I’m guessing that you’re not pitching a shameful story, but is it truly wonderful instead?

News is information that the largest number of people in a particular place at a particular time either need or want to know.  We no doubt need to know, for instance, about a new tax bill that will directly affect our take-home pay, so that would automatically qualify .  But do we need to know about the private lives of silly celebrities?  No, but many people want to read more gossip, so that would also be news.

We should also keep in mind why audiences turn to the media in the first place.  I credit cultural critic Arthur Asa Berger for this partial list of the benefits audiences seek:

  • to be amused
  • to satisfy curiosity and be informed
  • to find models to imitate
  • to believe in magic, the marvelous, and the miraculous
  • to participate in history (vicariously)

Moreover, the famous French short story writer Guy de Maupassant explained it even more emphatically.  In his view, the public “cries out” these commands to writers:

  • Console me
  • Amuse me
  • Move me
  • Make me dream
  • Make me laugh
  • Make me cry
  • Make me think

So, place yourself behind the eyes of a typical news reader.  Does your story satisfy any of these criteria? Does your product or service connect with a larger social or economic issue, or are you just seeking free advertising?  Does your pitch have emotional appeal?

If you’re wondering how to proceed, ask your customers for reactions.  Chances are their stories will fuel yours.

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About The Author

Greg Stone spent many years as a journalist so he brings those “street credentials” to every assignment. He began his career as a writer at Time Inc. in New York, and later worked as a TV reporter in Minneapolis, Boston, and on PBS. His professional honors include three Emmy nominations. Turning down an offer to anchor at CNN in New York, Greg founded Stone Communications in 1989. Since then he has conducted numerous media and presentation skills workshops for high-level executives at Fidelity, IBM and 3M; deans at Harvard University; rocket scientists at the Smithsonian; senior managers at the LA Dodgers; and three spokespeople facing interviews on “60 Minutes.” As a recognized expert, he has guest-lectured on media relations at Harvard Business School. Greg has also written and directed hundreds of video productions for clients such as Coca-Cola, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Johns Hopkins Medical School and Stop & Shop. He earned an AB with honors from Harvard University, followed by two master’s degrees from Columbia University in journalism and business.

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