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What can you do with un-newsworthy material?

By Kim Harrison,

Consultant, Author and Principal of

What can you do with media material that isn’t newsworthy? Many consultants and media managers have to grapple with this dilemma. It’s can be a difficult judgement call.

Firstly, don’t isolate yourself. If you believe the material isn’t newsworthy, you can seek a second opinion from a colleague or a trusted outsider. If you are a professional and have a good contact in the news media, you could seek their opinion informally, especially if it is a journalist specialising in the area in question, such as IT, telecommunications or travel. Having a back-up like this is good insurance if you have to tell your chief or senior management the bad news. The chief is less likely to overrule you if you have supporting opinion on your side.

Another alternative is to see whether there is a precedent – whether your organization has tried to gain publicity for similar products or services in the past – and you can report how the media responded or not in that case.

You could see if competitors have a similar product or service, for you to research how they promoted it in the marketplace.

If you feel the material doesn’t have the legs to be of interest to news media, you could try brainstorming the topic with your colleagues or get your agency to do this if you have a PR agency appointed. The brainstorm may identify a new angle for the material, or suggest another way to pitch it to the media, ie in a quiet time or to a more receptive news outlet or specialist reporter.

Another option is to try to highlight a different aspect of the product or service by researching more deeply into the topic to discover elements that may not have been apparent initially. Try to uncover really interesting aspects of the topic to highlight. Internet search engines are ideal for digging deeper to find newsworthy angles.

If the topic is about a particular product or service in a direct mail campaign, a good copywriter will have already discovered considerable information as part of their research. They will search in great detail to uncover different angles to promote. Your release can complement the text written in the direct mail campaign. You can do the same with the research conducted by advertising copywriters.

You could try associating the material with one of your existing products or services so it can ride on their back, especially if the other item has had a successful sales record.

You could focus on the target audience. Work back from the end users, the customers. Make a connection from their point of view. How would they use it? What unusual or creative ways are there to use it? Seek out an interesting person with a different story to tell about their use or experience of the product or service.

Perhaps the product or service can be associated with an external product or service in a joint promotion so that you partner with someone else. For instance, different garden products could be connected in a promotion, door locks could be associated with doors or burglar alarms, accounting services could be associated with tax advice, a basic tool such as a torch could be associated with photographs of situations where they are used. A hotel could link with a car manufacturer because it uses that manufacturer’s brand of prestige car for its hotel limousine service. A law firm could link an angle with an accounting firm, and so on.

Focusing on the uses of the product or service – the benefits to the end user – will get you to the key value in the product or service. Far too many marketing campaigns are based on the features of the product or service. Too often, these features are meaningless jargon to the consumer. You can translate the features into meaningful benefits to highlight in your news release. Usually the features on the product or service will have been supplied to you for your research, but you need to convert them to benefits.

The way to do this is to put yourself in the shoes of a sceptical customer or target stakeholder. For each feature, ask “So what? What’s in it for me?” The answers will be the things you can highlight in your release. After that first question, ask “Why?” at least a couple of times to get to the core of the benefits. The best benefits are specific, measurable, tangible, achievable and help solve the customer’s biggest problems.

Another way to find the benefits is to ask “What does this mean to a customer?”

You will be surprised as you start to dig deeper you will uncover unexpected angles. But don’t stop there. Keep concentrating hard on the problem for a while and then leave it in the back of your mind while you sleep on it overnight. Usually by the next morning, even during the night, your brain will arrive at something creative that will save the day.

About the Author

Kim Harrison is a recognized authority in the public relations field. His website,, provides a wealth of informative articles and resources on public relations techniques and management.


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