Sharpen Your News Peg to Hook Reporters
Of all the journalism concepts that PR pros should know, the least understood and the most misinterpreted is the news peg. You cannot hope to succeed as a PR Rainmaker if you fail to grasp this basic idea.
Fortunately, the news peg is simple, when it is explained correctly. The news peg, also known as the story hook, is simply the reason for the reporter to publish this news story right now. The peg makes the story timely, and thus defines the story as news. Without timeliness, you don’t have news.
Example: You can go onto the Internet and find reams of material on such diverse subjects as modern military strategy, the geography of Iraq, psy-ops, biological weapons, Shiite Islam, the Ba’ath Party, Middle Eastern economics, the petroleum industry and effective propaganda.
But without a news peg, all of these subjects are just entries in an encyclopedia. Only with a peg supplied by overt, timely act (such as the American invasion of Iraq) do these ideas take shape as part of a news story. You likely saw at least one news story on each of these subjects. Each was pegged to the Iraq War.
Most news pegs are not nearly so extreme as a war. Here are some typical pegs that you will find in the news almost every day:
A public meeting. An act of legislation. An earnings announcement. A ruling in a court case. The filing of a lawsuit. The release of a study or survey. The launch of a new product. A layoff of workers. A public protest. A major accident. A criminal investigation. An arrest or indictment. The celebration of a holiday or anniversary. An extreme situation: the most, the first, the smallest, the largest, the best, the worst.
Here is what you should do every day: Study news stories in the media. Try to identify the news peg.
In breaking news, the peg is almost always found in the lead paragraph. Features almost always have a peg as well, though they can be harder to identify than in breaking news. But the peg is still there. Example: A garden columnist in the local newspaper writes about how to deal with aphids. Why write that column in the late spring rather than in the winter? Because spring is aphid season. And that is the news peg. There is no reason to write that column in the winter because aphids are not a problem when its cold outside.
The bottom line for PR Rainmakers is this: Always look for news pegs that can benefit you. Sometimes you can create the news peg through an overt act: an event, a study, an announcement or the like. Other times you can piggyback on news pegs created by others. You do this by localizing a national story or by offering expert third-party commentary for reporters to include in their stories. In any case, the news peg is your key to enticing the news media to tell your story now. Without a peg, it is unlikely the media will tell your story at all.
Copyright 2003 by W.O. Cawley Jr.
Rusty Cawley is a 20-year veteran journalist who now coaches executives, professionals and entrepreneurs on news strategy. He is the author of PR Rainmaker: Three Simple Rules for Using the News Media to Attract New Customers and Clients, available at amazon.com. To learn more about PR Rainmaking, visit http://www.prrainmaker.com/dailyblog.html.