Why your approach to the media needs “The Thing”

For the teams at Recognition PR and Write Away Communication + Events, this book club was a special edition.

We had an insight-filled book to discuss, 101 Ways to Connect with Modern Newsrooms, and the book’s author, Simon Holt, on hand to argue his case.

As Editor in Chief of the Brisbane Times, Simon believes PR people need to work smarter, and harder, to pitch stories successfully. With modern digital newsrooms publishing stories so quickly, few journalists have time to wade through traditional media releases.

Instead, it’s far better to combat flagging attention spans, of both journalists and readers, by pitching stories that grab, sustain, and channel attention. In Simon’s digital newsroom, these hooks are known as “The Thing”.

“The Thing” can be powerful headlines or images, or combinations of both. They are no longer just that, “The Thing” can also be videos, quizzes, galleries, polls, info-graphics, stats, and quotes. These are “The Things” that readers love online. They’re what sells stories to readers. They’re what keeps them viewing, clicking, and ’liking’. They’re what inspires follow-up stories, platform-hopping to Facebook, and online shares. “The Thing” is also the magic ingredient that can turn smaller stories into national giants overnight.

“The Thing” now takes centre-stage due to analytics and new-media tastes.

For modern newsrooms and their digital mastheads, your mouse clicks and tablet pokes are everything. These audience results make advertisers want to open their wallets, let journalists build their profiles, and give newsrooms their readership and credibility.

For Simon and his team, understanding what works and why, is much more than a “nice to know”; it’s crucially important to the success of their business. Would newsrooms like a little help to bolster these metrics? “Absolutely.” Simon points out it needs to be worth his time – you need to give him, his team, and his competitors in other newsrooms, “The Thing”.

During our book club gathering, group CEO, Elizabeth Marchant, shared a clear example of “The Thing” in action. By building an interactive story around publicly available census data, our team made a successful pitch to one of Australia’s leading newsrooms. While we supplied data insights, story spine and commentary, the online masthead wrote up the interactive news story and designed the interface. This initial story’s popularity hinged on how well it nailed “The Thing”. In fact, it was so popular, it inspired subsequent interactive articles using census data, earning further publicity for the client.

The challenge and opportunity to create new kinds of digital storytelling lies at the heart of Simon Holt’s book. Journalists and editors, as much as readers, are yearning for strong hooks that will make them pay attention. Look at any mainstream news website and you’ll see the rich variety of digital media hooks on offer. As Simon explained, people wanting media coverage and attention need to recognise and satisfy this appetite, and give modern newsrooms “The Thing”.


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