Attention spans are shorter now than 10 years ago, so choose your tactics wisely. Companies need to employ creativity to generate ‘newsworthy news’, prioritise brevity, and stay alert for breaking stories to which they can contribute.
Long-form journalism is far from dead, but today’s information-rich, time-poor audiences have less opportunity to leaf through 2,000-word feature articles. Companies should therefore redouble efforts to generate shorter, readily absorbed news stories that grab the eye.
Competition in the news sections is fierce, so companies need to grasp what makes a good story. Understanding the journalist’s perspective has never been more important. Key questions to address are ‘Is this really a new development?’, ‘What makes it different?’ and, fundamentally, ‘Why should anybody outside our company care?’.
It will become increasingly important to hone the content of a press release or story pitch, eliminating unnecessary detail and making points concisely. With space at a premium, editors cut stories from the bottom up, so key messages need to be included early on in the document or may be left out of a published article.
Groundbreaking developments don’t always happen by themselves, so creativity is needed to generate truly ‘newsworthy news’. Skilled PR practitioners can often make ‘something from nothing’, such as press coverage for a CEO’s conference speech. However, the most memorable brands are companies that genuinely do things differently. For example, several airlines have recently found fresh ways to differentiate their products and services: Air New Zealand, with its economy class ‘Skycouch’ for families travelling together; Norwegian, the first airline to offer low-cost long-haul services from Europe; and Odyssey, which has tapped crowdsourced funding for a new all-business-class air service.
If developing thought leadership articles for the media, these stories should now be shorter, with an ideal maximum length of 800 600 words. If you can’t make your point within that space, you need first to clarify your argument.