It’s not about you

Introduction

The longer it takes for a journalist to work out what your story is about the more chance your story will go in the bin.

Let’s take a top line like this.

Helen’s Widgets make ground-breaking new widget

That headline has already lost me.

To a journalist that top line says …..

  • I don’t understand the press and what you need
  • I’m about to make your work hard as I’ve hidden the real story in my release
  • I’m actually sending you an advert in the guise of a press release
  • …..and more

People who talk about their organisation in the top line have less chance of getting their organisation talked about.

I can sum it up like this.

It’s not about YOU if you want to get press coverage about YOU.


Editors spend as much time trying to remove the name of organisations in the top line as PRs spend time putting the name in.

The only caveat to that is if you truly have a celebrity brand or are well-known in the media space you are in but be honest with yourself. Are you as big as you think you are? Is your name a news story in its own right? And even if it is, you still need to give journalists a story because they get bored easily. I can vouch for that again.

I get it

I’ve sent dull top lines to the press myself even after spending years as a journalist.

In PR the client (who might be you yourself) always wants their name in the top line. They think that is what is important but journalists don’t care. 

In the PR world, the bubble around us is different to the one journalists live in. The mindset is different. But as journalists are the ones making the decision on what to use, you need to get into their headspace to increase your chances of success.

What should you have written?

A far better example would be –

Climate change breakthrough – CO2 sucked out of the atmosphere by new widget

Journalists can smell adverts

We can all smell an advert a mile off, whether we are watching those so-called honest reviews on YouTube or a review segment on TV but journalists are super smellers.

Their BS detectors operate at a whole other level because they are constantly being bombarded with it.

So it’s not just about pretending your press release is a news story but actually making it one.

Action Step

Think about the next bit of copy you are sending out or the last bit you sent.

Is your organisation’s name in the top line?

Was that really the story? Be honest with yourself. I can’t see you.

If you change the name of the organisation and read that release as you would if it appeared in a magazine or in a report, would you sniff an advert? 

How could you rewrite it to say exactly the same thing you wanted to get across but in a way a journalist would use? What is unique about my story? Why should people care?

See if you can re-write the top 1-3 lines.

Listen to the episode for more context

The LinkedIn post I refer to in the episode is here