This article was originally published in 2015 and has been completely updated in 2020.
When seeking a suitable story angle for an article or other text, the task can seem quite difficult. We can’t be experts or even very knowledgeable about everything, and therefore we are not sure where to start. One of the best ways to find good angles is to do your homework – dig up background information and facts that will illuminate your understanding of the topic.
Google is the logical starting point. It is amazing how sophisticated you can make a Google search. This article in PR Daily is really helpful if you want to do specialized or sophisticated research on Google: Google for research: search commands and how to use them. In particular, find out what is said about your organization in the news media and social media.
You can find out how competitors to your company are discussed in the marketplace. Check news media coverage in Google. This will give you a picture of how the company is perceived, but also more general comments about trends in the relevant business environment. There are many social media monitoring tools, so use them to find out what people are saying about competitors.
Of course, you can see how the competitors refer to themselves. Obviously they seek to show their unique edge over others. Go to their website and find out more about them. Do a content analysis of the main areas within their website. How important is their website to their business? What strengths are revealed in their website, and what gaps are there? To what extent do they depend on online business? If so, how efficient is the information available in the website and how user-friendly is their transaction process? You can use the answers to these questions to shape your news angles to the best advantage for your own organization or client
Find out what the industry body makes available to members, assuming your organization is a member. Check the archives of its media statements, white papers, speeches by opinion leaders and comments on industry positions and trends. Check what is happening in the industry by developing relationships within the industry body.
Invest the time in meeting good contacts from other areas in your own or client organization. Form an agenda for discussion with these people about their views on the organization and the industry. And their own area. Key areas are Operations and Marketing/Sales. Ask if you can see their latest business plan. This will certainly help you see what their plans are, and will help you to understand what kind of news angles would best support their strategies. Also make a point of getting to know staff at lower levels. Often it is the customer-facing staff who know the key day-to-day realities of company performance. This can be invaluable for finding out strong and weak points relevant to media activity. None of these people are likely to understand newsworthy angles, so it is up to you to listen to their updates and decide what has potential news interest.
Other staff are impressed if you make an effort to find out how the place ticks. So always be curious as to why things are done the way they are done. Listen to feedback and explore potential news angles from staff responses.
If you are a consultant, try to seek better insights into the business in the same way. Get actively involved in learning about the organization. Spend time in site visits to manufacturing and operational areas. Communicators often don’t do this, but operations staff will appreciate your effort in seeing firsthand how things are done. This will enable you to find out some great angles to promote.
By Silvia Arto, Vice President of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, Chair of the European Regional
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