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Behind the scenes: Why this story? (Part 2) News hits, PR musings, Research

Last time, I shared insight into the development of a story reporting findings from my study of listener perceptions about local radio.

I also told you that I had been asked, in essence, “Why this story?” The implication being: Did my study get covered because of my ties to University News?

No—and I’ll tell you why.

First, longtime readers of this blog know that I have pretty high standards when it comes to news judgment (and writing). Nonetheless, cognizant that I was not impartial concerning this story, I sought the input of a “neutral party.” Enter Will Dube, my colleague who covers the College of Liberal Arts (my “home college”).

Will and I—who both know a bit about newsworthiness—agreed that the story had potential news value. In addition to credibility gained from my background, the subject matter alone, we believed, would likely be of interest to a wide-ranging audience. After all, it concerns research about the mass media—and even though my findings suggest radio is losing relevance in American society today, other research shows that about nine out of every 10 of us still wake up to a radio, listen in the car or otherwise hear it at some point during the week. Topic relevance—to a potentially massive audience, in this instance—is of paramount importance in crafting interesting news stories.

But don’t just take our word for it.

Within days, our opinion had been validated. First came “hits” (as we refer to story placements in outside media) in the Dallas Business Journal and Dallas Observer. Next came story pickups on some widely read radio industry-focused Web sites (and, thanks to the Web’s “spiral” nature, these initial hits have led to additional pickups). Plus, next month I’ll join Bob Smith on his WXXI radio show, “1370 Connection,” for a discussion about radio and findings from my study.

What’s it all worth to RIT? Though measuring the value of news placements is an inexact science (to say the least), we believe news hits provide certain value by raising awareness about the university. One metric, known as “ad equivalency,” estimates their monetary worth. (Those of us in the news business believe that a positive news story has far greater value than advertising due, in part, to the public perception of higher credibility and to the third-party “stamp of approval” from independent media.)

Though some reasonably doubt the validity of advertising equivalency as a measure, a conservative estimate of the monetary value of stories that appeared due to Dallas media coverage alone is roughly $2,800. Having this knowledge and a nickel won’t buy a cup of coffee these days, however. Thus, much of the value for us comes in the gratification from a successful story pitch resulting in raised awareness about RIT.

As I’ve shared, diligent planning, hard work and know-how—arguably setting a new standard for future story development in University News—were behind this success story. So, to return to question, “Why this story?”. . . I believe it would be more apt to say:

“Let’s cover more stories like we did this one!”

Have a great weekend and spring break!


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