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    Public Relation & Newsworthiness of an Issue

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    How do you determine the newsworthiness of an issue?
    Why is it important to use the "inverted pyramid" style and the "five W's" in a press release?
    What are some advantages and disadvantages of using the various types of media for a PR campaign?

    How is the effectiveness of public relations best measured? Explain your answer.
    What are three types of evaluation techniques used in PR? Provide examples of each.
    At what stage of the PR campaign should evaluation occur? Explain your answer.

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    1. How do you determine the newsworthiness of an issue?

    One definition of newsworthiness is:

    The issue is information that - through the media - people in a certain area: MUST know; NEED to know; SHOULD know; WILL WANT to know; and WILL BE INTERESTED to know. Then the issue demonstrates newsworthiness. (http://www.rotary5340.org/pr/pdf/PR_Cheat_Sheet.pdf)

    From a PR perspective, when an issue sparks your interest (e.g., public interest, current and high profile, etc.) the first thing to do it to call or write to a member of the media in an effort to attract coverage of a story or event, this is referred to as a pitch. A pitch can be made by telephone or in writing in the form of a letter or press release. A pitch should include a unique newsworthy angle that would entice the press to attend the event and cover it as a news story. You are testing your hypothesis that the issue is trustworthy (or not?). (http://cadca.org/CoalitionResources/med-gloss.asp)

    The news or press release is a tool to communicate the newsworthiness of an issue in a matter of seconds. While news releases will sometimes be printed as they are written, they generally provide background for a story or interview. Press releases usually describe your organization's position on an issue, reaction to an event, or announcement of a new program. It should include details on the time and place of the activity, background on the event or issue, and a quote by the group's spokesperson when applicable. Whenever possible, news releases should be double-spaced and one page in length. (http://cadca.org/CoalitionResources/med-gloss.asp)

    2. Why is it important to use the "inverted pyramid" style in a press release?

    Pyramid Style of Writing - Traditionally, when you write, you start with a 'foundation' and gradually build to a conclusion in a pyramid style. You might write an essay or article using the following structure:

    1. Problem statement
    2. Related work
    3. Methodology
    4. Results
    5. Conclusions (http://www.scidev.net/ms/howdoi/index.cfm?pageid=58)

    Journalists, on the other-hand, use an inverted pyramid style. They generally start with the main conclusion and get progressively more detailed, like so:

    1. Conclusion
    2. Supporting information
    3. Background and technical details

    This is to spark the attention of the reader and get the main ideas out first. For example, since Web users typically scan text, it is important to position main points at the beginning of the article, then go into more detail as needed. Likewise for the journalist writing a press release. (http://www.scidev.net/ms/howdoi/index.cfm?pageid=58)

    3. Why is it important to use the five Ws in a press release?

    It is important because the traditional 5 Ws are believed to provide the essential information to the reader about the issue who, what, where, when, why, and sometimes how? The idea is that is provided an organized coverage of the news event.

    The most effective press releases are written to a standard and simple formula. Key points:
    · Write in the active voice
    · Use everyday language and avoid (or explain) all jargon, technical terms and acronyms
    · Put the most interesting things at the start
    · Results and conclusions go before the background, method and so on (i.e. the opposite way round to a scientific research paper)


    Needs to be brief, contain major key words, and say exactly what the story is about.

    The five Ws

    The opening paragraph should answer the following questions:
    · Who (is involved/did the research)?
    · What (is new)?
    · Where (is the research / publication)?
    · When (does it take place/get published)?
    · Why (is it new)?

    For example: "Police [who] used tear gas to disperse protesters ripping down posters [what] in Indian-controlled Kashmir [where] yesterday [when] as tensions increased before next week's state election [why]." (http://www.leg.state.fl.us/committees/index.cfm?mode=Committee%20Pages&view_mode=View%20Page&Committee_ID=1151&Tab=committees&submenu=1)

    See more detail http://www.scidev.net/ms/howdoi/index.cfm?pageid=58.

    See http://www.entrepreneur.com/mag/article/0,1539,319926,00.html.

    For criticisms of the traditional 5 W's see http://www.marcusletter.com/Five%20Ws.htm and http://www.marcusletter.com/Obsolete%20press%20releases.htm.

    4. What are some advantages and disadvantages of the various media?

    I located an excellent resource. The following excerpt discusses various media coverage from the vantage point of small business advertising, but many of them are likely to apply to other applications as well, so glean through them and keep what fits:


    Newspapers. Newspapers are one of the traditional mediums used by businesses, both big and small alike, to advertise their businesses.

    · Allows you to reach a huge number of people in a given geographic area
    · You have the flexibility in deciding the ad size and placement within the newspaper
    · Your ad can be as large as necessary to communicate as much of a story as you care to tell
    · Exposure to your ad is not limited; readers can go back to your ...

    Solution Summary

    This solution examines how to determine the newsworthiness of an issue and why it is important to use the "inverted pyramid" style and the "five W's" in a press release. It also discusses some advantages and disadvantages of using the various types of media for a PR campaign and how the effectiveness of public relations is best measured. Then it discusses three types of evaluation techniques used in PR, providing an examples of each, and discusses at what stage of the PR campaign evaluation should occur.