Winning the Political Game: Look for a Strong News Peg

Dealing with the news media, and promoting oneself via social media, are among the most difficult, interesting, important and scary things that public officials do.

Why the news media cover some things and not others, and why some things go viral on social and others don’t, is often a mystery to public officials. While a lot of nuances exist here, there are some events and issues that almost always result in coverage.

In his book “How To Speak TV, Print & Radio,” Clarence Jones lists the Seven Compelling Cs—categories of news stories that are sure to get covered (and win lots of views on social media):

  • Catastrophe
  • Crisis
  • Conflict
  • Change
  • Crime
  • Corruption
  • Color (human interest)

If an issue you are involved with includes any of those elements, it will most likely be of interest to the news media and social media followers.

However, minus a major scandal or crisis, it’s sometimes very difficult for a local policymaker to attract the attention of the news media and win widespread notice in social media, even when you have a legitimate issue or story that needs to be aired.

Sometimes the best way to get an editor or a reporter to get interested in a story is to find a relevant “news peg.” A news peg is something that makes a story timely and relevant. Often, the news peg is a national or state event, issue or story that can be localized. A good reporter may want to localize a national story on crime statistics, for example. If crime is up or down nationally or statewide, what about your community or county?

On a daily basis, all sorts of national and statewide stories come out about transportation and traffic, education, water, land use, finances, healthcare, and so forth. Reporters are interested in local angles to many of these matters, and if you have the information, you can get a story placed.

When international, national or statewide news breaks, when legislation passes or a court decision is handed down, it’s time to think how the story might be localized and how it might impact you and your areas of responsibility. Sometimes being proactive in suggesting a story can help you manage how it is framed and whether it ends up being positive or negative.

If you have a particular local story you want placed, try to put it in perspective with state or national events or trends, and you’ll have a better chance.