Money matters in selling stories to the media

Money matters in journalism – by that I mean financial figures such as contract values.

Many years spent writing on business for magazines and newspapers dramatically reinforced the point that a story with sterling signs has more chance of getting published than one without. Money facts give a sense of scale and add interest. Which of these two headlines would lead you to read the story?

A)   Warren Buffet Buys Chemical Company
B)   Warren Buffet Buys Chemical Company for $10bn.

The second wins every time; the numbers needn’t be huge, readers appreciate relative issues. An SME making a £100,000 deal with a single hospital can be more striking than a large corporation winning a London-wide contract for £500,000.

Nowadays I do more PR than journalism, advising businesses on raising their profiles. There are times when a decision not to discuss money is justified – indeed, it’s occasionally been something I’ve recommended. But normally it substantially improves the chances of getting publicity.

These are rules, of course – you don’t reveal financial issues without the consent of all the relevant people in a deal. Then again, you wouldn’t announce anything without appropriate agreements. As with everything in PR care has to be taken to think everything through and to avoid alarms, surprises or hostages to fortune. But whether I have been putting stories out to the media, or have been the writer on the receiving end, I know that the chances of a story making the grade are closely linked to the numbers.

The most important figures are those with £, $ or € in front of them – for example a journalist will always be interested if you volunteer something like annual turnover to give a sense of a company’s size. But it’s not only about money. Numbers of employees or customers are useful, so are the hours saved by using a new system, or comparing the time taken to call up an electronic patient record to compiling a paper one. The more imaginative and unusual the better – journalists revel in quirky.

It really is one of the fundamentals about people, that we love figures: they allow us to measure, quantify, compare – to decide how much something matters. So when you want some media attention for your company, I’d heartily recommend putting some money into it.

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