In advertising, relevance is king. The message of the ad has to matter to your audience. The same goes for news agencies. If the news story isn’t relevant, it won’t get ratings or readers.

How news editors pick stories for each issue will teach you a lot about how to develop your next advertising campaign.

You can make your advertising sound like “breaking news” or a big announcement, but I’m talking more about how news editors pick stories that their audience wants to read or see.

How do you craft advertising that your audience wants to see?

News editors instinctively follow 7 “news values” that guide them in choosing the best stories for their audience. These news values have direct correlation to business and advertising.

We’ll examine how each value applies to advertising. Write these down, send them to your marketing team, or pin them to the wall in your home office just above your computer. Let them become instinct, a natural consideration every time you sit down to prepare a new advertising campaign.

News values:

  • Impact: the significance, importance, or consequence of an event or trend; the greater the consequence and the larger the number of people for whom an event is important, the greater the newsworthiness.

The key word is consequence. What are the negative consequences of your customer’s pain or problem. What are the positive consequences of life with your product or service?

When producing content for a company blog or content marketing campaign, this is your number one concern. What is the impact and importance of what your audience is reading about?

With news, you read about other people most of the time. The greater the impact, the more intriguing the news. But with advertising, it has to be personal. It has to hit home. When the reader is a part of the story, it’s impact is amplified exponentially.

  • Timeliness: the more recent, the more newsworthy. In some cases, timeliness is relative. An event may have occurred in the past but only have been learned about recently. Of particular value are stories brought to the public ahead of the competition – the scoop.

News editors are constantly looking for the newest, biggest scoop. The newer the story or revelation, the more newsworthy it is. In advertising, new products or new stories surrounding a product get noticed.

For content marketing this is often referred to as “newsjacking,” writing about current events and how it matters to your audience.

In either case, advertising or content marketing, fresh events and new products are good, but so are “ancient secrets revealed,” or “the never-before seen history of such-and-such.” New revelation about the past are just as good as groundbreaking stories.

  • Prominence: Occurrences featuring well-known individuals or institutions are newsworthy. Renown may spring either from the power the person or institution possess or from celebrity.

In advertising this is “celebrity endorsement.” When a famous person or well known organization uses, is involved with, or agrees to promote your product, it will grab your audience’s attention. You also share in the celebrity’s audience. Exposing your brand to a new audience that is much larger than your own is a huge opportunity for growth.

Reaching out to influencers, gathering their opinions and insights for blog posts, inspirational images, videos or any other content will help your content stick out. The expert doesn’t even have to be super popular, they just have to have expertise that matters to your audience.

  • Proximity: Closeness of the occurrence to the audience may be gauged either geographically – close by events, all other things being equal, are more important than distant ones – or in terms of assumed values, interest and expectations of the news audience.

An excellent example of Proximity in the news is demonstrated between two recent stories: the shooting of 12 people in the offices of a Paris satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, and the massacre of 2000 people in Nigeria by Boko Haram. The Paris shooting dominated Western news agencies for a week. The Nigerian massacre was barely recognized.

There are other, more complicated reasons for the difference in coverage, but one simple reason is proximity. Even though Paris is an ocean away, it’s closer than Nigeria. Westerners relate to the people of Paris more than the people of Nigeria. So Paris got more coverage.

Again, that’s not the only reason. Nigeria is a complicated situation. The exact numbers of the massacre aren’t known and many details behind the event are still uncertain. News editors don’t like reporting uncertain details. They want the facts.

That being said, when the details were uncertain in Paris, there were reporters all over the place getting the scoop, providing updates and clarifications as the details became known. You didn’t see that kind of coverage for Nigeria.

Back to advertising. There are two types of proximity: geographic and interest.

Geographic proximity is obvious; product launches or stores opening in specific cities or regions. The closer the event, the more it matters to your audience.

Interest proximity is a bit more vague. This is the hardest to nail down for your target audience, but it’s the most important. What are their interests, problems, frustrations, pleasures, lifestyle, daily routine, beliefs, moral values, and so-on. The closer your advertising connects with these areas of your audience’s interest, the more attention it will receive.

  • The Bizarre: the unusual, unorthodox, or unexpected attracts attention.

Simply put, “shock factor.”

There is leeway here. You can have a bizarre story or advertising premise that seems completely unrelated to your business and still earn attention. However, if your ad or content doesn’t eventually tie the bizarre into your business in a way that makes sense, you’ll lose attention pretty quick.

This is an excellent tactic. Strange stories create tension, your audience wonders what this has to do with your business. When you finally tie it into something that matters to the reader, you’ll solidify their attention, nearly guaranteeing the complete read through the ad or content.

That tension and resolution creates a strong emotional connection between your brand and the reader. They will remember you and that ad or article.

  • Conflict: Controversy and open clashes are newsworthy, inviting attention on their own, almost regardless of what the conflict is over. Conflict reveals underlying causes of disagreement between individuals and institutions in society.

We are drawn to controversy. Powerful advertising will highlight controversy, agitate it a bit, then provide a solution. Bringing resolution to a controversy that surrounds your reader, that they are involved in, or that is happening internally is another way to create an emotional connection.

You can empathize with the readers point of view or present opposing arguments. Either way, as long as you prove you’re on the reader’s side you will earn their respect.

  • Currency: A matter that assumes a life of its own, and for a time assumes momentum in the news. More value is attributed to stories about issues/topics that are in the spotlight of public concern. These stories come and go.

While I was researching this article, this was happening in Paris:

This writer perfectly captions the essence of “Currency” in news:

I am hopelessly distracted by current events, especially when it has to do with terrorism. It was hard to get any work done on that day. I had a live stream open from cbc.ca and a twitter feed streaming the hashtags “#jesuischarlie” and “#parisshooting.”

This is the extreme of currency. Hostage situations are fluid, edgy, and immediate. They can’t help but be current. Other examples of currency are topics like high profile court cases, scandals or even global warming stories. They have their time in the spotlight and then fade away or resolve.

These are trending issues. What’s trending with your audience? What are they talking about as a community? What stories or issues have taken on a life of their own?

Use those trends to relate to your audience and earn their attention.

Conclusion

Think like a news editor when you are crafting an advertisement or creating content. Deliver stories and ads that matter to your audience and they will organically earn attention.

Keep these 7 New Values on hand so that they become instinct. When you browse news stories, press releases, or brainstorm advertising concepts, it will be natural to put your audience’s interests first.

(Originally posted in January 2015)

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