Are you making news or making noise?

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Parents in the US will have heard about the controversy and concerns surrounding Tide Pods that reached fever pitch in January 2018. However, they might not have heard about the dangers of vitamins, which statistically pose a much larger risk to children in the nation. This is unsurprising; the media frenzy that surrounded Tide in January is a perfect example of what makes a strong news story.

By Thomas Roden, senior account executive at Stone Junction

For those unfamiliar with Tide’s January PR nightmare, it goes roughly as follows: the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) reported several cases of teenagers poisoned by ingesting the chemicals in single-load laundry detergent packets. In the first two weeks of January, the AAPCC recorded 39 calls about the issue. Within one week of the AAPCC reporting it, the number rose to 86.

The reason this impacted Tide was due to the trend being linked to something dubbed the “Tide Pod Challenge”, a Youtube challenge that saw teens attempt to bite into Tide’s single-load product. News outlets ran with the story and a PR problem ensued.

Interestingly, the reason this was a newsworthy story wasn’t because it was an epidemic that parents needed to be aware of. Statistically, 86 calls about ingesting Tide Pod chemicals isn’t significant in the US. In fact, it pails in comparison to the 46,306 US citizens reported to have been poisoned by vitamins in 2016 — and even that made up only 4.4 per cent of annual PCC calls.

But think about it: as a journalist, is it a better story to cover the thousands poisoned by vitamins or the few that ingested detergent because of a foolish internet fad? While both have a relevance to the public and the potential to err on controversy, one is certainly more unusual than the other.

From a journalistic point of view, the novel case makes the better story. And whether you’re a national reporter or a trade journalist, the more unique a story is, the more newsworthy you’ll find it.

This is where it pays to have an eye for news. Many in-house marketers often get excited by developments in their company, whether it’s a new senior appointment, a key sale or an upcoming exhibition that they want to shout about. But how this is communicated makes the difference between sharing a strong news story and just making noise into the void.

Exhibiting at a trade show is a good example. Written as a general piece that says you’re exhibiting is fine for a possible mention in a show preview. Yet using a preview press release to draw attention to your experts as knowledgeable on key industry issues — and inviting visitors to discuss them — or to soft launch a new product range is much more interesting.

In some cases, the most newsworthy angle for a piece might be to not make it news at all and instead turn to content PR to turn the news of a recent project into an application story or case study.

Struggling to figure out if your story is newsworthy enough for the media? Don’t worry — it happens to the best of us. Luckily, we talk with journalists every day so we’ve got a fairly good eye for the stories that pique their interest. Get in touch on +44 (0) 1785 225 416 or sayhello@stonejunction.co.ukand see how we can help you sell your story.

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