What's the story?

As technology specialists, we often have to remind clients that the national and broadcast media are targeting a much broader audience and therefore only stories that have a generic appeal will be attractive to these journalists. A business technology story will not gain coverage in the national press unless it could potentially affect, or benefit the majority of readers.

The Henshall Centre’s “How to be a Newshound” course presses this point home by getting students to dissect a popular national newspaper and categorise stories into seven key themes, namely:  money, celebrity, scandal, sex, health, death and humour.

In follow up to the course, I applied Henshall’s theory to a client’s six monthly spam report. On the face of it, this was a quite a run of the mill report, which contain little of generic interest, other than the fact spam is an irritation to everyone with an email account, but this was old news.

Then I read another report that estimated that if just two per cent of recipients bought products advertised within unsolicited emails, a spam operation could remain profitable.  This is because spammers often use the stolen computing resource of infected computers to distribute millions of emails, so their operating costs are minimal.  This begged the question, what would possess someone to click on a link and share their credit card details with spammers? The answer is: desperation. People who are too embarrassed to buy products through normal, legal channels are more likely to resort to the black market and respond to a spam email.  A quick inspection of the contents of any spam filter will amply demonstrate this point. They are promoting products targeting male impotence. By identifying the sexual health story buried in the global spam data, we were able to place our client’s six monthly spam report in the Metro.

Tying a technology story into a major trend also provides a good avenue into the broadsheets and broadcast media. For example, I successfully pitched an online CRM story into the BBC in response to a report it had broadcast on digital photography overtaking film for the first time. My client, a pioneer of cloud CRM, had successfully sold its services into Nikon.

The CEO of the CRM vendor had told me that Boxing Day is the busiest day in call centres, because people throw away their manuals with their wrapping paper and then can’t get their Christmas gift to work. By enabling customers to find out their own information online, manufacturers could alleviate some of the pressure on call centre staff, while improving customer service by making information available around the clock. At that point online customer service was very new, but was creating waves in the retail industry.  Luckily, my client’s customer, Nikon, was willing to be interviewed and we were able to combine these two trends to create a topical story that was broadcast on BBC Breakfast just before Christmas.

So if you’re hoping to see your technology story picked up by the national press, think about whether it affects the majority of people. If not, take a look at the broader trends sweeping the nation and whether your story can be aligned to those trends.