Lawrence Rosenberg, Junior Account Manager at Spreckley, shares his thoughts on how to find the crux of your client’s story
Not all news is created equal.
Unfortunately for PR folk, client expectations are often similar regardless of the story we’ve been asked to publicise.
Let me set the scene for you. It’s 10:30 am on a Tuesday, and you’ve just been asked to put together a partnership announcement that needs to be ready for 2 pm.
The client seems to think this could be a national story, although you know tier-1 trades would be a phenomenal result. “No harm in trying”, you tell the client about the nationals, but you’ve already managed expectations to let them know it’s unlikely. Good job.
There’s one problem. You’re not sure this would be of much interest to a tier-30 trade (if they existed), let alone a tier-1 trade. You check to see if your old Piczo site still exists; maybe you could place it there. A small tear rolls down your face as you realise Piczo ceased operations in 2012.
You sit there thinking, “what the hell am I going to write about?!”. Even worse, how do you write something that is actually interesting?
What is the crux of the story?
You contemplate writing two pages of filler text just to get the work done. You don’t fancy 1274 tracked changes, so you scrap that idea. You scroll through Instagram, hoping the answer might be in your reels. Stop that; you know it isn’t.
Your answer is simple, and it’s actually another question.
What’s the crux of the story?
Now, what on earth do I mean by the crux of a story? Let’s start with the definition:
Crux: the decisive or most important point at issue.
I was always taught that if you wouldn’t tell the story to your mates down the pub, then it’s probably not worth telling. Your job as a PR specialist is to make it the kind of story people want to tell. After all, that’s the value of PR – earned third-party publicity and recognition.
Finding the crux of a story means finding the diamond that makes this story something that journalists want to tell their audiences. That tidbit of information that means they won’t get a verbal beating by their News Editor if they put this story forward. Remember, journalists have bosses too.
It’s not unusual for the crux of a story to be something the client hasn’t directly told you. This is where you get the chance to be creative.
Ask yourself all the essential questions
For example, if you have a partnership announcement, then what might this partnership mean for the journalist’s readers? Will it save them money on their shopping? Does it mean the UK is now the best at something? Or, for a more niche sector audience, what changes could occur in their industry thanks to your announcement?
This concept doesn’t only apply to press releases – it can be profiling pitching, bylines, or media alerts. Sometimes, the most exciting bit about your story might not even be what your client initially wanted to talk about. I’ve seen exceptional coverage landed by flipping a story on its head and spotting something a client said in passing that they didn’t even think was newsworthy. Does your client wake up at 3 am every morning to eat toast? Was this the basis for their success? I hope not, but if it was, I’m sure there are some feature editors who would love to hear about it!
It also helps to know what’s happening in the news – can you link this story to something topical at the top of journalists’ agenda?
You’ve probably noticed by now that finding the crux of the story is more about asking questions than finding answers. That’s not a mistake. Before you start writing anything, you should ask yourself all these questions to pick apart your story and find the best angle to approach the media with. Trust me, if you don’t ask yourself these essential questions, the journalist will.
Or they might just ignore you; there’s that too.
Finding the crux of the story will apply to anything you’re sending to the press. It’s all about identifying the hook that will reel in journalists who are likely even more time-poor than you are. If it’s not exciting to you, it’s also probably not exciting to them, either.
Whatever the crux of your story might be, I’m loving working at an agency that values creativity and empowers you to take the initiative. I’ve already had some fantastic results since I joined, and I hope that stepping outside the box with your writing can help you to do the same too!