Identifying the News Hook
“Just because you are worthy, doesn’t mean you are newsworthy” – David Henderson
In order to get news coverage, you have to have something newsworthy to say. As media events and messages are developed, it is important to first identify the “hook” that will be used. The “hook” is that critical piece of newsworthy information that will capture the attention and interest of both the news media and their audiences (Yopp, McAdams, & Thornburg, 2010).
While there is never any guarantee for media coverage, incorporating newsworthy hooks simply increases the likelihood of interest and coverage from the media. There are many variations of news “hooks” within Safe Routes to School (SRTS) including the following:
The timeliness hook ties SRTS to an event or season, such as “Back to School,” or other events that could incorporate a SRTS message. In addition to times of the year, media events can also be tied to national campaigns, such as International Walk to School Day or National Bike Month.
The media is also interested in how a potential story impacts their audience in the community. Stories surrounding funding announcements and infrastructure projects are examples of how SRTS can have an impact on the community.
SRTS media stories can also incorporate information on how walking and bicycling to school can have an impact on the health of children, the environment surrounding a school and the safety in nearby neighborhoods.
Prominent members of the community are a natural draw for the media. These individuals can be leaders within schools and districts or government, as well as prominent members of the community.
The prominence hook can also involve the media itself. Often media personalities are local celebrities themselves. Consider inviting a news anchor to attend an event or ask your local meteorologist to do the weather live from an event.
In order to define proximity, you must understand the audience of the media organization. The proximity of The New York Times is much wider than the proximity of a small, community newspaper. Editors at small community newspapers are generally going to be more interested in what is happening in their county as opposed to events in a distant county.
The magnitude hook incorporates the element of quantity into the SRTS story. Will there be a record number of children walking or bicycling during an event? Are you announcing a large amount of statewide funding for the program? If you are conducting pre- and post-surveys, consider promoting your survey results as well to the media.
Conflict can create a platform to promote the issues of SRTS, such as an increased need for pedestrian safety in surrounding neighborhoods and the importance of enforcing speed limits around schools. Conflict can bring about a positive story, with a headline such as “Support for sidewalks improved safety for kids”
Incorporating an odd element within your program or event can also attract the attention of the media. To utilize this hook, look for ways to incorporate an unusual twist into your SRTS story.