Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
November 5, 2013

How Adding One Word Changed a Snoozer Story to GMA-Worthy

We in PR aren’t like journalists.

We don’t always have the luxury of shooting down story ideas people bring to us — we ought to apply our creativity and media savvy, and find a way to make them work.

There are several formulas for turning boring or mundane topics into newsworthy angles that journalists and bloggers crave. Exemplifying a trend, tying to pop culture or tapping into breaking news are among them.

Another great one is to link to what’s currently on the media agenda. What do the media seem to have a love affair with right now? What can’t they get enough of?

That’s the route my former coworker Todd Hollingshead took last month when a professor at Brigham Young University (BYU) brought him an academic research paper. The title of the study was, “Satiation From Sensory Stimulation: Evaluating Foods Decreases Enjoyment of Similar Foods.” The research was a technical breakdown of the process and results of showing subjects 30 pictures of food, then measuring their satisfaction after eating similar food.

If you took the time the read the paper, it was actually kind of interesting. But Todd knew that if he tried to promote the research straight-up, no one would take that time. So in his email subject lines and news release headline, he included one key word to grab media and blogger attention: How Instagram Can Ruin Your Dinner.

Linking to the popular social network Instagram, which is still climbing the cool curve, and acknowledging its users’ penchant for posting snapshots of their meals did the trick.

Todd’s story ascended the digital media ladder from local media to Mashable and TechCrunch to and ultimately, to “Good Morning America” and “CBS This Morning” (which flew the two BYU business professors who did the study out to New York for a live interview).

Now, literally millions of people have been exposed to the research that otherwise would have languished in an academic journal, read by only dozens, or hundreds at most. Kudos to Todd for not giving up on the story too soon.

I’ll be sharing 10 approaches to turning boring stories into popular ones in my “Pitching Boot Camp” in San Francisco next month. You’ll see dozens of pitch examples, including six from within the last six weeks, that landed national media for products, services or issues across many industries. One day prior, I’ll disclose best practices for using Twitter and other social media tools to build relationships with journalists and bloggers in my “Building Media Relationships” seminar.

Michael Smart, principal of MichaelSMARTPR, has been landing top-tier coverage for 15 years. He also has trained more than 4,500 communicators across the globe on how to boost their media and blog placements, including pros from Allstate, Disney, Verizon, Hilton, Honda, Edelman and many other organizations, large and small. He has been among the top-rated presenters at the PRSA International Conference three times.

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