Why Editorial Context Matters in Public Relations

October 11, 2017 / by Lucas Wiseman

iStock_61400618_XLARGE.jpgWhen trying to get the media to do stories on your business (or your client if you work at an agency), the best path to success is developing a story idea that has depth and will appeal to the audience of the targeted media outlet.

However, a shortcut method to generate media coverage is to come up with a “gimmick” that the media will salivate over. For example, when your local doughnut shop offers free doughnuts and the media covers it.

While the strategy of coming up with a gimmick works, it’s important to build editorial context around your pitches to the media. In other words, you need to make the story newsworthy in some regard.

A great example of the need for editorial context came out recently when FTVLive published a leaked, internal email from Raycom Media VP of News Steve Ackerman, whose company owns 65 television stations across the country. 

Ackerman told his stations to be careful of providing free publicity to businesses. Here’s the email:

We need station leadership to help manage the “free publicity” we give businesses. In just the last week, Krispy Kreme promoted half-price donuts and IHop promoted 59-cent pancakes. The campaigns were paid for somewhere, but ended up in many of our social media feeds and on some of our (and other) broadcasts. When we use our social media platforms and broadcasts to push these things without any editorial context, we’re violating our editorial guidelines AND undercutting our advertising business. We should (and WILL) always defend the right of our newsrooms to cover stories, but we should NOT blatantly promote businesses without any editorial context calling it news. One of our stations covered a traffic nightmare caused by the Krispy Kreme promotion and some outlets used Amazon Prime Day as the focus of a story about retailing—two examples of providing editorial context. While our Broadcast Sponsorship Policy is clear about what we will/won’t do for OUR clients, it’s really up to us as News leaders to talk with our producers about what is newsworthy—and what is just free advertising. Somewhat related, we are aware that a third party (Simplemost) has been distributing some of this content—we are simultaneously taking steps to better review that content before it appears on your social media platforms.

This serves as a great reminder to all of us to provide the proper editorial context around the stories we pitch.

Not only will it increase your likelihood for success, it will also help lead to deeper, more impactful stories about your business or client. 

For more PR tips and best practices, contact us or download our eBook, Newsjacking: The Essential Preparation Guide. 

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