The hard work of making news – just ask two New York Times Journalists

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Jay Dillon

Director of Strategy and Creative at Inbound Experts
Jay is a digital marketer and producer whose creative and technical skills have developed digital brand strategies and sales campaigns using a range of complex internet applications from stand-alone websites through to Facebook API integrations.
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After a five week election campaign which dominated the broadcast and print media, I was not surprised to receive a call from my news release service to ask me if I needed their services. The polite person on the other end of the phone was also asking if I was happy with the service because I hadn’t used it recently.

I laughed.

I told the friendly sales rep that any PR trying to get a story out throughout the election was probably wasting their time and their money. I also mentioned that I rarely did traditional media campaigns now because I find they provide little cut through for the markets I need to engage.

I failed to mention that I had long become cynical about how my communication on behalf of a client could translate into any semblance of what I required  by using traditional media.

But I did say, “I use social channels now.  I find they give a more accurate voice and better two-way engagement. Most importantly, my message doesn’t get censored or changed.”

I’m telling you this not because I am openly bias to digital campaigning. I’m telling you because the 24/7 news cycle is already overcrowded with a slim variance of news.

Then there’s this. The next point of my story.

Making news is hard – even for news outlets

The current discussion around people seeking asylum by boat here in Australia brings a range of opinions. In fact it was one of the central points to the election. It has had a lot of airtime but the content only reaches a certain point, mainly the political discourse around the issue. For those trying to get the reality of the human story, or just even the truth around the stories of these people, there are a plethora of roadblocks  Media trying to gain access to Christmas Island detention centre are often denied because of the strict requirements surrounding their reporting. If you look to report on the people seeking asylum then getting the story is a hard slog.

But then, as with any great story, there is a way around most things.

Two Journalists get on an Asylum Seeker boat…

Enter a photographer and a journalist who went to the lengths to get on a boat in an effort to understand the people who would leave Afghanistan to travel as far as Australia to find a better life.  They’re from the New York Times and apparently on assignment for a magazine piece.

No forms to fill out, not protocols to worry about (particularly if you have the totally correct documentation and visas necessary to enter the country) and a journey with the people who are the story.

So what did the general Australian media focus on with this news story? That the pair were sunburnt.  Yes, that’s how deep it went.  You had to search for the more detailed early reporting and yes, it was scarce.

I am absolutely certain their story in the New York Times magazine will be far more in-depth.

So, if that can’t get news here in Australia what hope do we have with our stories of good news?


The moral of the story for all you good PR people out there, in ten points:

  1. Throw out the rules and learn to storytell creatively
  2. Think about traditional media last
  3. Get your head around social, what works best for your clients and what people respond to
  4. Use a variety of content to get your message across – articles, visuals, videos, books, advertising, as an example
  5. Engaging means responding – be a real part of the discussion with interaction
  6. Know your audience; who advocates, shares, listens and delivers.
  7. Use your social responses to drive your traditional media campaign
  8. Work to a strategy specifically designed for the digital sphere- this requires new thinking about how you communicate
  9. Find a ‘voice’ that is open, transparent and unspun otherwise ‘they’ will call you out
  10. Stay up to date- keep reading and learning about what is happening in the digital sphere and how it can deliver the benefits for your company as well as for your clients.

Author – Libby Fordham @libbyfordham

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