What Makes a Good Story?

02.11.2011 | Holly Zuluaga

Securing media coverage is one of the most direct ways to measure success in PR, but placing a compelling story in the right publication is no easy feat. PR professionals must manage their clients’ goals and target a specific audience, while also identifying key elements that may make a newsworthy story.

At Communiqué PR, we have written extensively about the story arc and its essential role in crafting a compelling story. However, after developing a story arc, we as PR professionals must translate that into viable story ideas that will spark media interest. There are certain and very specific questions that the media use to judge the news value of a story. Below are some of the ones we ask as we consider developing a media pitch.

  • What is the “today value”? First and foremost the story needs to have “today value.” Why should a reporter write about this today? Is it timely or relevant to their readers? No matter what you are pitching, make sure you can frame it in a way that demands urgency. For example, if you are working to secure coverage surrounding a new summer program for kids, most news agencies would not find this timely during the winter months. However, by providing figures that show the savings in planning summer activities ahead of time, you make the story relevant for today’s readers or viewers. Another option is to provide a preview to a select group of journalists. This gives them incentive to cover the story.


  • Why do I care? This is a question that my former news director would constantly ask journalists during meetings. As PR professionals it is essential we answer the very same question. Journalists are looking for stories that impact the viewer. It is critical that you can identify why this journalist should care and who the story impacts. For example, is the new product saving customers or companies money? Is it creating more jobs? Is it disruptive to an established industry? Why should a journalist develop this story?


  • What elements can you offer? Providing journalists with the essential elements to create a meaningful story is key. Anticipate this question and have the elements lined up. Interviews are one of the most important elements to a story and providing a compelling spokesperson or a third-party interview is beneficial. Also, offer additional visual opportunities. Providing photos, b-roll, and facts or figures that can be displayed on graphics can all help illustrate for the journalist what they have to work with.


  • How is this new? Journalists want a story that is new, innovative or different. Not only is this part of their fiber as journalists, a fresh new story can help drive eyes to their publication’s website and drive buzz on social media platforms such as Twitter. A good story has a new angle and it is helpful if you can create that for the journalist.


A good story is timely, impacts a large audience, contains compelling sound bites or quotes, and resonates with viewers or readers. As you work to develop a pitch, it can help to put yourself in the shoes of the journalist. If you have the right elements and can provide compelling answers to these questions you are more likely to spark interest and develop a meaningful relationship with the journalist. Not only can this help to secure coverage in target publications, it can set your clients’ goals in motion.


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Filed under: Media, Planning, Strategy

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