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How To Unlock A Treasure Vault of Free Publicity by
Pushing the Media's Hot Buttons†


by George McKenzie 

Excerpted from The Instant Press Release Toolkit 

 

No doubt youíve heard the classic analogy that explains the nature of news.†


 "When dog bites man, itís not news.†
† When man bites dog, itís news."


Itís a massive oversimplification, but itís essentially correct. Anything thatís out of the ordinary, or the opposite of what you expect, is inherently interesting.†


But thereís another element that is also extremely important: relevance.†


When you send a out a press release or pitch a reporter, producer or editor with s story idea, they'll automatically ask this question:


How many people need to know, or would like to know about
this?†


The information has to have some value to the audience. Journalists always want to know, as quickly as possible,


'Whereís the news value in this?'†


As one of my former news directors once told me, 'Take the viewerís perspective on every story. The viewer, consciously or sub-consciously, always wants to know ĎWhatís it to me?í and ĎWhy should I care?í'†


I taped a small piece of paper to my typewriter (back in the days before word processors) with these initials on it:†


†W.I.T.M? (Whatís It To Me?)†
†W.S.I.C? (Why Should I Care?)†


Pretend that youíre a reader, listener, or viewer. Ask yourself those questions whenever youíre pitching a story to a journalist.


But right now you might be thinking, 'Well, then Iíve got a problem. Iíd like to get some publicity for my childís Little League team, our churchís spaghetti dinner, or even a lost pet. Not much news value in those. Does that mean Iím out of luck?†


Not at all.†


Iíll remind you once again of the advice I got from that consultant early in my TV career.


†'There are no dull stories. Just dull approaches to interesting stories.'†


The key is to find a way to make your 'dull' story more interesting. In other words, more newsworthy.†

 

GIVE IT some news value.†And there are ways to do that.†

 


Hot Buttons:


Universal News Themes, Story Lines, Hooks and Angles†

Itís conventional wisdom in the news business that certain things are automatic attention-getters. Theyíre universal themes, story lines, hooks and angles.


I call them news hot buttons.†


Construct your press release or word your pitch so that it punches one or more of these hot buttons, and youíre on your way to thousands-- maybe even millions--of dollars worth of free publicity.†


The definitions that follow are among the most common, but the list certainly is not all-inclusive. Thereís always room for creativity.†


Beating the Odds: 

 

Any story about someone who has accomplished the unlikely is inherently interesting. A story about someone whoís attempting to accomplish something unlikely is also interesting, as long as itís not totally ridiculous. E.G. Sending a news release about your client who plans to shoot himself out of a cannon and land on the moon will get tossed in the trash.


Celebrities: 

 

This oneís pretty obvious. If we werenít naturally interested in movie stars and sports heroes, there wouldnít be racks full of magazines and tabloids dedicated to them. Anything that has to do with a celebrity automatically gets media attention.†

 


Civic & Charity Connected: 

 

News people generally want to project an image that theyíre concerned citizens with a social conscience. Therefore they look for stories about civic involvement and/or charity events.†

 


Contests:

 

Everyone does Halloween costume contests, but you can be imaginative and creative at other times of the year. Example: if you owned a restaurant, you could ask your customers to submit stories about their biggest holiday meal disasters, with the winners (pick more than one) getting a free family dinner at your place. Circulate a news release to the media with an invitation to come to your location the night the winners will be there.


Controversy: 

 

Again, itís conventional wisdom in the news business that 'heat sells better than light.' In other words, controversy gets nearly everyoneís attention.†

 


'Conspiracy Theory:' 

 

As the guardians of the common good, news people are always on the lookout for scams, con games, and 'conspiracies' aimed at the public. If you can make even a relatively reasonable case that somebodyís out to take advantage of somebody else, youíll probably be able to get the mediaís attention--especially if itís somebody 'big' trying to stick it to somebody 'small.'†

 


David vs. Goliath: 

 

Everyone roots for the underdog, so stories of this sort are a 'gimme.' There doesnít even have to be an element of conflict--as long as you show how the 'little guy,' working alone or with minimal resources, has accomplished something the 'big guys' with lots of money and power couldnít figure out how to do.


Fighting City Hall: 

 

Weíve also heard the phrase, 'You canít fight City Hall.' But some people try, and some even succeed. They make interesting stories.† Again though, the fight has to have some basis in reality. There are a lot of kooks running around claiming all sorts of bizarre stuff about their government, and they love to share their fantasies with folks in the media. So if youíre going to use this approach, be prepared to demonstrate youíre not just a crackpot.


Follow-Ups: 

 

Everyone likes 'where are they now' stories, right? Thatís one type of 'follow-up,' but there are several others. Basically a follow-up is a technique of adding new information to something thatís already been in the news. For instance, if some people in your area lost their homes due to flooding, the local newspaper might want to do a follow-up story a few months later telling how those people have been managing.


'God & Country:' 

 

Many people are religious and patriotic. Anything that touches on these subjects tends to get attention. But because theyíre such emotional issues, you really have to be careful how you use them when approaching the media. Donít be crass.


Health and Medical Issues: 

 

Almost every TV newscast, almost every newspaper does at least one story related to health and medicine every day.

 


Holiday Tie-Ins: 

 

Stories about firecracker safety on the Fourth of July, how to bake a better Thanksgiving turkey, gift shopping at Christmas time etc.†

 


Human Interest: 

 

Everyone loves a good story. Ď Nuff said.


Kids & Animals: 

 

Weíve all heard that :cute kids and talking dogs are a tough act to follow.' Pets and kids are inherently interesting to people.†

 


Local Angle: 

 

If you can offer a local twist on a national story. If you see something on the Today Show that touches on your area of expertise, send a quick news release to the NBC affiliate in your town and offer them a 'local angle' on the story.†

 


Lost Opportunities 

 

These are stories that tell people theyíre missing out on something. People like to learn about anything that makes life more convenient, interesting, rewarding, financially secure etc.


Milestones, Firsts, and Record Breaking Events 

 

These are so obvious, I donít think I need to do anything other than
mention them.†

 


Money and Financial or 'Pocketbook' Issues: 

 

Another 'gimme,' like health, human interest stories and milestones.


Myth-Busting: 

 

Information that debunks a myth or flies in the face of conventional wisdom will raise eyebrows--and get attention. When you can get talk show hosts and reporters to say, 'Wow. I had no idea!' theyíll be standing in line to tell your story.


Polls and Surveys: 

 

Conduct a survey among your customers, and offer the results to the media. Even surveys asking basic questions like 'Whatís the number one reason youíll stop patronizing a restaurant?' can turn into a filler story on a slow news day. Write and circulate a news release detailing the results.


Technology: 

 

Got a great new gizmo that will help speed up service or make life more convenient for your customers? Let the local media know about it, and offer to show them how it works. Example: when some restaurants started taking to-go orders by email.† Because youíre in the business, some technological changes may seem basic and everyday to you, but they have a 'gee whiz' quality to consumers and reporters. So itís often worth a news release to your local media.†

 


Tip Lists: 

 

David Letterman made the idea of a 'Top Ten' list famous, and you can get attention by offering the media some lists of your own. Unlike Letterman they donít have to be funny, but they should be interesting, relevant, timely, and if possible, attention-grabbing. For instance, a restaurant might offer: 'Five Ways To Make ĎEm Love Turkey Leftovers.' A cleaning company or maid service can provide 'Five
Reasons Why There Are More Germs In Your Kitchen Than In
Your Bathroom.'†

 


Travel: 

 

Lots of people are doing it, especially in summer.† 

 

 

Trends or 'Signs Of The Times' Stories: 

 

These often overlap with stories about new technology. Theyíre examples of trends and innovations. For instance: when my wife and I opened the one of the first Subway Sandwich Shops located inside a convenience store, we were sure to put out a news release to local newspapers and TV stations. The San Antonio Business Journal responded by doing a front page story, including a color picture of us at our location. Buying the same amount of advertising space in the Journal would have cost about eight thousands dollars.


Vanity: 

 

A powerful human emotion and therefore a possible source of stories. Anything that helps people look better or feel smarter creates interest.†

 


Weather: 

 

It affects just about everybody, just about every day. Therefore it can be newsworthy. This category would also include seasonal and climate-related stories.


'Whoaís' and 'Over the Top' stuff: 

 

If this kind of story didnít get attention, the circus would have gone out of business long ago. It doesnít have to be weird, but anything thatís unusual or 'eye-popping' will work.†


Caution: Hot Buttons Are Often In The 'Eye of the Beholder'†


Have you ever sat in front of your TV, watching a local newscast, and said to yourself, 'I donít like that news anchor. Thereís just something about him/her that bothers me.'†


Most of the time, it has nothing to do with that personís professional qualifications or congeniality. You just donít like their looks, their voice, or the way they raise an eyebrow when they say certain words. Or maybe they remind you of a high school classmate you disliked.


Thatís called a subjective judgment, right?†In a sense, that happens with news judgment too. You may send a news release to one place and it goes in the trash. The same release goes to another place and they nearly trip on themselves trying to get you on camera.†
Subjective judgment. Period.


Iíve sat in TV break rooms where three or four other reporters gathered to watch their competitionís newscasts. Theyíd debate at length whether a particular story should have led, or really belonged somewhere after the first commercial. They pick apart each otherís writing styles, and fuss over the way someone spent too much time talking about one part of the story and not enough talking about
another.†


Itís all about human nature and subjective judgment. The news business is as much art as science, and therefore, everyoneís opinion is as good as anyone elseís.† So donít waste a lot of time and energy feeling good about the success of one news release or feeling bad about the failure of another. Use the experience to learn anything you think might be useful, and get to work cranking out other releases.†


Stick as best you can to the principles Iím writing about in this book.

 

Donít be afraid to take a chance. 

 

Donít sweat bullets over small stuff in your release, and donít fret
about splitting semantic hairs.


Most important of all, just keep getting your ideas in front of people.†


Keep pushing those hot buttons.†


Success will come.

 


George McKenzie is the President of The Academy of Marketing and Advertising at http://www.get-free-publicity.com

 
If you want to get FREE PUBLICITY and dirt cheap advertising that's more believable, powerful, productive and profitable than anything you can buy at any price...download a free copy of George's ebook "Free Publicity Fast Track" here.


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