What Defines Newsworthy? 5 Tips on Pitching Your App To The Press

Our next feature is written by Tamara Vukusic of Spark Your Imagination. Tamara is a mom-app-developer with experience in press and media relations. When launching her app, she put her experience to work to get Spark! noticed in the crowd. What makes an app newsworthy? In a world of 140 character instant messages, knowing the basics of traditional media relations might get you farther than you think.

Dubbed by my family “the sticky note queen”, I created an app in part to safeguard myself from being left in the high tech dust by my four and six year-old boys who call hand-addressed envelopes “email”. The burning question as the app neared completion was how am I going to market my app in this new-fangled media and marketing world once it’s finished?

I’ve been at at-home mom for seven years and the communications world has changed vastly in that time.  Before starting a family I lived and breathed media relations; organizing national news conferences, writing countless news releases and acting as a media spokesperson.  This 12 years of experience felt useless in the ever-changing world of Facebook and Twitter.

So, the App Store gave Spark! the nod and I defaulted to what I know best: traditional media relations.  I called upon the five criteria that make a story newsworthy from my days at Carleton University School of Journalism (Ottawa, Ontario).  This same list can be found on mediacollege.com, so it is current:

  1. Timing – Reporters like all things new, whether products or ideas.  You can also piggyback a celebration or event to make an app timely (for example, International Woman’s Day would be a good time to pitch an app about girl power).
  2. Significance – The greater the number of people impacted, the bigger the news.  And we all know that the number of people with iPhones/iPads is growing every day, so this is relevant for all apps (backed up by numbers and stats, a news release can really pack a punch).
  3. Proximity – Stories that happen near us have the most significance, so a story that isn’t scooped by the national news may appeal to your community paper or radio station.  And don’t overlook even the smallest of community papers as larger media outlets scan smaller outlets for leads.
  4. Prominence – Famous people are more likely to be covered by the news.  You may not be famous (yet) but your app may include content from someone famous such as a writer, author, thinker, or educator.  And, if you have something relevant to what someone famous just did or said, it may be newsworthy (e.g. think all things wedding in April 2011).  This is where tracking current events becomes important.
  5. Human Interest – Stories that appeal to emotion and are quirky, feel-good or interesting do not have to fit any of the other four criteria. (I see countless Moms With Apps apps that could be pitched with a unique human interest angle.)

Spark! and the Domino Affect

All of the noted news clips can be found on my Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/sparkyourimagination and I invite you to check them out.

December 2011 – I sent out a news release to the two local local newspapers, one TV station & three radio stations   The pitch was ‘local at-home mom creates an iPhone App’. OUTCOME: A full-page article was printed on the front of the Enterprise section of The Kamloops Daily News (December 2011)

March 2011 – CFJC-TV (Kamloops) aired a story that included a screen shot of my web site address.  The anchors bantered over one of the Spark! questions for a full minute after the story aired.

Note: Remember to write out your web site address (if you have one) and app name as it appears in the App Store to give to the reporter.  Provide a promo code to increase the chances of footage of your app in action.  I strongly recommend you also include instructions for how to use the promo code because it is not intuitive and time is tight in a news room.

Two nights later Global BC-TV picked up the story for the Sunday night 6 pm news.  Global TV Calgary picked it up for their Monday morning news program. By Sunday night Spark! had hit the #2 position for top-selling educational apps. 

If you’ve ever watched the top 10 top-selling apps closely you will understand how fragile that #2 spot is.  Spark! had previously hovered around the 200 spot and I wanted to do what I could to keep it in the top 10.  I got back to work:

March 2011 – I sent an email to the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) Radio morning program, Daybreak South, and the CBC Regional News (BC-wide).  My brief email read “I am an at-home mom in Kamloops and am so excited to discover that my app hit the #2 spot in top-selling educational apps this morning, I just had to share it with you”. Which was absolutely true. I was bursting at the seams, home alone with my kids and I wanted to share it with someone who might listen. OUTCOME: I was interviewed the next morning on CBC Daybreak South.  CBC Regional did a news story the same day.  The reporter took the app to the streets & randomly asked kids the Spark! questions. Their responses were woven into the story.

CTV News heard the CBC Radio interview and contacted me for an interview.  The story aired the following week and they posted the story on their CTV-BC web site.

March 2011 – I sent a news release to four Canadian news dailies with the angle “mom creates #2 top-selling educational app”  I knew my chances of coverage would be better if I offered at least some exclusivity; as a general rule newspapers don’t want to publish the same story as their competitor.  In consideration of the “proximity” criteria, I targeted the daily in the city I grew up in, the city I went to university in and the two largest centres closest to my home town. OUTCOME: The Vancouver Sun wrote a short but glowing review of the app. 

Why (I think) Spark! was scooped

Timing – There is buzz about handheld devices and their impact on kids. People are looking for something positive about kids and screen time.  That makes an app that kick starts imagination and gets families talking timely (and I bet your app is timely too!).

Proximity – I live in a smallish city (90,000) and no one else – to my knowledge – had created an app yet in Kamloops.  It was novel.

Human Interest – The idea behind Spark! is simple (open-ended, out-there questions to get families talking & story-telling). It has that “it’s so simple why didn’t I think of it?” and “I could do something like that!” appeal.  And if I could do it – an at-home low tech mom with two young kids – anyone could.  It got the wheels turning of those who read, heard or watched the story.

One last thought. My story was picked up during a slower news time.  It wasn’t competing with an election or a natural disaster.  It’s not uncommon for a ‘soft’ news story to wait in an assignment editor’s in-basket until the time is right.

I continue to spend vast amounts of time trying to understand and “work” the social  media marketing world. I’m in awe of it.  But I have decided to embrace my title of ‘sticky note queen‘ and all things that have stood the test of time. Traditional media is at the top of that list.

10 Replies to “What Defines Newsworthy? 5 Tips on Pitching Your App To The Press”

  1. What a great article! It’s spot on. My family ran a community paper and we loved “getting the scoop” before the larger papers. Another add on to that, if you’re not doing so already, is posting your articles on the mom/parenting sites like CityMommy, BigTent, mom bloggers and hundreds more – moms will read and forward …viral marketing at it’s finest. Big congratulations to you!

  2. great article. Very interesting tips for everyone. I like the way Tamara went back to her roots and got the publicity for her app. I am sure it doesn’t take long for her to figure out the twitter/Facebook.

    May be she can start the PR firm for apps. I am sure lot of developers love to have but can’t afford 🙂

  3. Thanks for the encouragement Stephanie and Siva. Stephanie, I appreciate your suggestion to post on the mom/parenting sites. I will check out the ones you have mentioned today!

  4. Hi Tamara

    I read about your app when you released and thought it was a fantastic idea – so simple, like all the best ideas! Was also very impressed with all the coverage you got. Ok, and a little bit jealous! 😉

    Kudos to you and thanks so much for sharing.

  5. Thanks for the excellent write-up on PR tips Tamara, and congrats on your success. Quite timely since we’re interviewing some PR firms right now, and it will be helpful to keep those 6 elements in mind.

  6. Great article. As editorial director for Beckett’s Guide to Phone Apps, I’ll add a couple more easy-to-implement tips that many developers get wrong. There have been cases where I haven’t covered something I want to cover because of a few simple-to-fix glitches.

    1) Make it easy for press folks to contact you. A button called ‘contact’ or ‘press’ on your site works wonders. About 30% of the time, my only option for contacting developers is ‘support’ and I have to spend inordinate amounts of time on the site hunting even for that. If someone from the press contacts you, acknowledge receipt and tell them if and when you can respond to the request.

    2) If you want print coverage as well, have some hi-res images of your icon and screenshots available. (Lower-res shots don’t work for print.) Make it easy for press folks to get them by a) responding within a day or two to press inquiries, or b) including a ‘press kit’ on your site with basic product info and images. Another great option many developers use to get heavy files to us is a ‘drop off’ service like ‘Dropbox’ or ‘Ge.tt.’

    3) Don’t feel too bad if you don’t have a PR firm. Many of those folks don’t get back to us nearly as well as developers do themselves.

    Best wishes to everyone here publicizing their apps! Erin

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