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In today’s 24 hour, connected world, this is the billion dollar question. With the constant news cycle and breaking news available instantly via social media, what makes a story newsworthy? Are the principles the same as they have always been, or has the definition of newsworthiness morphed as technology has advanced?

While social media increases the speed in which news is disseminated and consumed, the basics of what makes a story newsworthy remain the same. Not only that, once a journalist has found a newsworthy story, they still rely on the same formula for writing stories that we’ve known for years – the five W’s: who, what, where, when, why. But, when it comes to getting a story covered by the media, there’s a sixth W: Why should anyone care?

The sixth W is, possibly, the most important one as it will be asked by every editor before a story sees the light of day. So, the more communicators strive to provide valuable and relevant information, the more likely the stories being pitched will gain traction.

What is the secret ingredient that generates interest in a story and moves it to the story development or interview stage? Let’s take a look at some headlines and analyze their newsworthiness.

1. WestJet’s union drive reaches a crossroads: Go in-house or join big labour?

This story is an example of how conflict and opposing viewpoints can drive a story and make it newsworthy.  Disagreement generally leads to an interesting story. If handled carefully, opposing positions can be used to spark healthy debate rather than provoking a nasty conflict. Both will generate news coverage though.

2. Add “fight cancer” to your grocery list this April

The newsworthiness of this story comes from the human interest angle. By partnering with the Canadian Cancer Society and helping to tell the story of a young cancer survivor, Loblaws was able to gain media coverage by helping someone else tell their story and raise awareness for a charitable cause.

3. Toronto’s best kept secret: A toy company in the heart of the city

Audiences pay attention to local angles as they are directly impacted by them. Brent Hanson, news anchor for CKCO TV describes localization as, “the audience will want to know if they know anyone involved and if it will have an impact on their own lives.”

4. President Obama stops at Zingerman’s ahead of Ann Arbor speech

Imagine going about your daily routine at work and suddenly the President of the United States drops in for a visit. Because of his celebrity status your business would instantly be in the news. Imagine he even included an endorsement of your product in the speech he was giving after his visit. Priceless. Instantly his credibility and likeability are transferred to the corporate brand.

5. John Tory code of conduct targets Mayor Rob Ford

The timeliness of topics in the news may also drive newsworthiness. With the City of Toronto still reeling from the fallout of allegations that its Mayor smoked crack, John Tory, a candidate running to become Mayor, was able to introduce a code of conduct for public officials to take direct aim at his opponent.

Ultimately, it’s all about the story and how you package it. An awareness of the components of what makes a story newsworthy will help with the development of key messages and targeting the right audiences.

Thanks for visiting the CaptainComm blog. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about proactive communications. If you have any questions or would like more details, feel free to leave us a comment.