What makes a great news story and how to get yours published

With the rise of social media it’s easy to neglect other more traditional forms of PR and marketing. But getting a story published – whether print or online – is one of the best ways to get your brand noticed.

However, getting press coverage isn’t just a case of firing off a load of emails. There are a few things to consider when it comes to creating newsworthy content.

Here are our top tips on making the headlines, with expert advice from Horse & Hound’s editor-in-chief Sarah Jenkins.

  1. Know the publication

There is no point pitching an idea about a great new travel destination, if the magazine doesn’t do travel features. Make sure you buy the latest copy of all the relevant mags you would like to feature in, and read them from cover to cover. This way you can pitch ideas that relate to certain sections or regular features. It will win you brownie points, as it shows the editors you read their title, plus it makes their job much easier as they know where to place the potential feature.

“If a magazine doesn’t cover your services or products, look at what they do and think about how you could work with them,” advises Sarah. “For example, we do a weekly interview with a rider or industry figure (the H&H interview), but we also have ‘All in a days work’, which is an opportunity for us to interview people who don’t fit in that bracket. So if you have someone in your business who is very charismatic or has an interesting story, this would be a good idea to pitch.”

  1. Know the audience

Again, this is about doing your research to ensure you know if your idea is relevant to the audience. If your product helps older riders suffering with back pain, don’t send in a feature idea to Pony magazine, which targets six to sixteen-year-olds.

Think about what the readers of a magazine are looking for, what they are interested in, and why they would want to read about your business. For example, Horse and Rider offers amateur riders advice, in a lively and entertaining way, while Horse and Hound is aimed at industry experts and riders who regularly compete, so the tone is more utilitarian. Make sure you adapt your pitch accordingly.

  1. Ask yourself ‘so what?’

Just because the story is of interest to you, it doesn’t mean it will be of interest to the nation. Before you fire off those emails, ask yourself, ‘so what?’

“You have to think, would you honestly want to read this piece of news or information if it was about someone else?” says Sarah. “Or do you only care because it’s about yourself, or your friends or family? It’s the difference between national journalism and a riding club magazine, not everyone knows you, so the story has to be interesting beyond your local community.”

  1. Be interesting

These days, journalism is all about the back story. Think of The X Factor, and the wannabe stars they follow – it’s all about people with an interesting story to tell, even if their vocals aren’t up to much.

If your story is inspiring or has an emotional angle, an editor is far more likely to publish it.

“It’s all about ordinary things happening to extraordinary people, or extraordinary things happening to ordinary people,” says Sarah. “If you put yourself or your company forward you have to think of a reason why we should cover it – again it’s about what interest your story has to our audience.

“If you’ve just come back from adversity, or you and your horse’s combined age is really old, or really young, or you’ve only been together for a short time – that makes an interesting story.”

  1. Be exceptional

Chances are you’re never going to win Badminton or Burghley (unless you’re Pippa Funnell or Piggy French – in which case, hold the front page), and news of your first BE100 win probably isn’t that interesting – unless you can tick the human interest angle, discussed above.

Editors are inundated with average stories everyday, so get their attention with a story that is unique and headline grabbing.

“The reason everyone wants to be in Horse & Hound is because it suggests you’ve made it, so if we reduce the level of calibre of who we cover, we are no longer aspirational,” explains Sarah. “We want to support people at all levels, but they have to do something sensational to justify us interviewing them.” One great example of this is a rider and her Fell pony who raised almost £6,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support, after riding the challenging Trans Pennine Trail. It has human interest, combined with exceptional achievement, as they are the first horse and rider to have tackled the whole route.

If you’re pitching a product or service, think about what makes it stand out.

“What is interesting about what you are selling?” asks Sarah. “Is there new research on its benefits? Is it truly innovative, or something genuinely new?”

  1. Give the journalists everything they need

Make sure you present the journalist or editor with everything they need to publish your article. It’s not just the words that matter, visual storytelling is also important – particularly for online content. Videos work well in digital publications, while print publications will want good quality, well composed high-res images.

When a journalist is on deadline, they don’t have time to ask for photos so providing a link to a downloadable asset library could be the difference between getting your story published or not.

It’s also important to make sure there are no gaps or missing information in your press release, so provide all the necessary facts and figures, testimonials or case studies.

  1. Contact the right person

A pet hate for all journalists is being contacted about a story that has no relevance to them. If you have a dressage story, send it to the dressage editor, if its product related, send it to the product editor, and so on.

And don’t send it to everyone to cover all bases!

“That just irritates us!” states Sarah. “Also there is the risk that we will assume someone else has dealt with it, so we will ignore the email.”

Make sure you know all the different sections of a magazine and their editors and then decide where your products, service or story fits best.

“If they have something important to say, such as a new innovation or statistics then it’s best to contact the news editor, rather than just suggesting we interview them,” says Sarah. “The more specific you can be the better.

“We sometimes get products sent in for our news page, but we only feature products there if it has a direct impact on horse welfare, or their owners – or is genuinely ground-breaking. For example, the Fairfax breastplate made our news pages because there was really interesting research into how standard breastplates affect the way a horse jumps.”

We hope the above information has inspired you to come up with some creative ideas to get your brand and business in the equestrian pages. It’s all about knowing the publication, understanding the audience and deciding what makes your service or product stand out.

For more great media and marketing advice get in touch with Ceris Burns Equestrian to find out how we can help boost your brand and grow your business.

Image credit Charisse Kenion on Unsplash