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7 Ways Government Agencies Can Identify Newsworthy Stories

Government agencies often take a reactive stance as it relates to their messaging and public image. Getting out ahead of potential negative news is a key strategy in effective communication. Additionally, telling positive news should also be strategic.

For government agencies wanting to take a proactive stance and be more strategic with their public image, the key is to identify newsworthy stories within the organization.

First, it’s important to understand what news is. What you consider newsworthy may not be of interest to a reporter.

Reporters, blogger and influencers will ask: What’s the story? Why should I care? Why should my readers or viewers care?

Ask yourself these questions as you evaluate the potential news stories to pitch to the media.

Here are seven ways to identify newsworthy stories that will capture the media’s attention:

  1. Actual news. Perhaps your agency has launched a new app to improve citizen engagement, or has been recognized with a national award. Share the good news! Just remember to ask yourself: “Is this new?” “Is this unusual?”
  2. Community impact. With so much negative news, we all could use the occasional reminder that there is still good in the world. Your agency’s public safety department is a great place to find community impact stories.
  3. Local expertise. Is there a director or team lead in your agency who could be considered a subject matter expert? Reporters are always looking for “local angles” to larger news stories, or a local source who could talk about something in the news. Someone within your agency with deep knowledge on or influence in a particular topic, could serve as an ideal media source.
  4. Human interest. At the heart of any human-interest story is people. Has someone in your agency exhibited an act of bravery? Perhaps there are unsung heroes within your agency who deserve recognition. With human-interest stories, the focus is always on the person and their experience.
  5. Current trends. Even when it’s hard to get coverage specifically on your agency’s new program or initiative, consider how it fits into a trend. To help you stay connected with national trends, set up Google Alerts with topics that relate to your agency’s innovative practices.
  6. Seasonal stories. Reporters like to make their stories seem timely. Give them a hook that ties into the season or holiday. Pre-hurricane season, for example, could serve as the perfect time to highlight your agency’s revamped process for addressing electric outage reports.
  7. “Celebrate National ____ Month”. Play off national and even international holidays and promote your agency’s programs or initiatives in accordance. This can also be used as a social media strategy to boost engagement, while promoting your agency’s positive news.

Where do you find newsworthy stories within your organization? Leave your office and get out into your departments! Let your department heads know that you want to hear from their teams. Set up a news story submission form and encourage staffers to share their ideas. Then put these ideas to the newsworthiness test. Perhaps if an idea doesn’t lend itself well to be pitched to the media, the content could be featured in your agency’s employee newsletter or intranet.

Inspirational, uplifting, funny and happy news, photos and videos appeal to our desire for positivity in life. With a little planning, your agency can remain proactive in telling the positive stories that will build goodwill with your citizens and stakeholders.

Kelda Senior is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She is a business development and accredited public relations professional from Florida. For the past 10 years, Kelda has served as a communications and community outreach specialist in local, state and federal government, with an emphasis on the transportation sector since 2012. Kelda is the owner of Senior Communications LLC, a boutique public relations firm focused on helping emerging brands cultivate their message and move their audiences to action. Kelda holds a B.A. in journalism and a master of public administration – both from the University of Central Florida in Orlando. You can read her posts here.

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Avatar photo Lisa Salinas

This is great! So many people in government try to hide from the media, but you’ve nailed a much better way. Stay out ahead. Earn your agency good press, and then when things go wrong (they inevitably will), you’ll have friends in the media. They will be less inclined to lambaste the agency and more likely to provide fair coverage… including the remedies the agency is working on to correct the problem.

This is definitely a print-worthy article to keep at the ready, especially for newer public information staff.