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How to Get a Cover Story: 
A “Newsworthiness” Checklist



by Michael G. Frenkel, July 26, 2010

Everybody wants to see the name of their hotel, destination or hospitality product in print and online – image creates awareness, and awareness helps drive sales.

Many companies generate stories that are newsworthy enough to warrant a few sentences, a paragraph, or even a full page article in the trade publications.

But how much would you pay to have your company’s name, product, or property on the front cover of an important magazine?
A cover story means guaranteed awareness; thousands upon thousands of eyeballs; a statement that your company is credible enough, desirable enough, to deserve marquee exposure.

Here is how you get one.

Make News

No one lands on the cover – or even in a prominent position in a magazine or newspaper -, unless he has some serious news to tell.

Gimmicks are fun, celebrity parties are nifty and make great for photo-ops. But news begins from facts, facts that support an important trend that impacts an industry or market.

Notice the highlighted words in that assertion: Facts – and Trend.

An example: In May, one of our clients held a conference which was attended by close to 100 of the top luxury hotels in the country, and the same number of corporate meeting planners, who came together to do deals and book group business.

The client, Elite Meetings International, has a compelling CEO, generates interesting speakers and ideas, and has established a sterling reputation as a third party intermediary.

But none of this, alone, brings in the media.

What matters is the fact that as everyone knows, meetings and group business are at a low point, and recovering at a much slower pace than other parts of the hotel business. From the AIG debacle forward, corporate meetings have been (unfairly) lambasted as wasteful, unnecessary boondoggles – and revenues at luxury hotels are suffering as a result.

So when are meetings coming back? What is required to bring them back, and to what levels? Is the AIG effect behind us – or has something irremediably changed about the way companies book travel and hotel blocks?

These are critical questions that impact the entire hospitality industry, and everyone in it.

From the media’s perspective, the important part of the Spring 2010 Elite Meetings Alliance (www.elitemeetingsalliance.com) was not the great speakers, the wonderful venue, or the tintillating entertainment. The important part was the news, and the news was the state of the meetings industry today, and a forecast about the future.

One lodging trade publication was astute enough to spot the trend and the news – and as a result, our client landed on the cover of the July 2010 issue.

A “Newsworthiness” Checklist

So if news is the key to getting media coverage, how do you know if you’ve got it?

It’s a challenging question, one that could occupy an entire dissertation on public relations (let alone make or break more than a few PR careers).

But here are a few questions to ask yourself, if you want to make a threshold evaluation of your own story:

1. Who Cares?

Your hotel repaved its parking lot, added a spa, and redid all its case goods  . . . Who really cares?

Your owner does, of course, she forked over the budget. Maybe your lender cares. And perhaps, your guests and the competitors on your street corner.

But the level of interest stops there. So that should provide an indication of what kind of media coverage to expect when you share this news with the world. 

Will you get a couple of sentences in your local newspaper or a trade magazine? Hopefully.  But the front page of the Wall Street Journal? Not likely.

“Who really cares?” is the first question anyone seeking media coverage should ask of the topic, product or service he hopes to see covered.

2. Is it a trend?

Always remember that reporters are in the business of reporting news, and news by definition is not only information that is new and different – but also that impacts a large number of people, for example, an entire industry.

Does your addition of a wonderful hotel spa meet that standard? Probably not.

Does the future of the group business for hotels meet the standard? You bet.

3. Do you speak as an impartial expert?

Our firm has placed more than a dozen cover stories in the past five years, and in each case, there was a single defining feature to the company that secured the coverage: It sat at, or near, the top of a industry segment or important market; its chief spokespeople or executives could speak with authority about the future of that market.

Do you want to generate news? Be an expert.

4. What else?

There are lots of other factors that can help secure meaningful media coverage.

Being “new” never hurts; a new company, backed by credible industry players who have identified an underserved industry niche, usually generates excitement.

Being “first” is good, too. Is yours the first hotel to do curbside check-in? Is your corporate meeting in Tuscaloosa the first to exceed 50,000 attendees, establishing your little city as a rival to Las Vegas? Be the first and tell the world – they are anxious to hear.

There are also other tricks of the trade. It’s critical to actually read the important industry publications, and understand what kinds of stories they like to cover (otherwise, how will you know if you are pitching the right story to the right magazine?). 

It doesn’t to hurt to have direct and personal relationships with the editors and the reporters at those publications. In the age of caller ID, editors know who is calling them, and they know roughly what to expect when they pick up the receiver to hear your pitch. It helps if they know who you are.

And (the PR Gods will blaspheme me for writing it!) – supporting a PR program with advertising buys can also be a good way to open doors to editorial coverage in the same magazine that runs your ads. That much ballyhooed “Separation of Church and State” was never as separate as the Jeffersonian magazine dons would have had you believe.

Still, Elite Meetings International has no advertising budget. And the Elite Meetings Alliance did not use a single gimmick, employ a big name celebrity, or spend a ton of money on promotions.

But it did have news.

Sometimes, a little grit and a lot of news, can go a long way toward landing that elusive, coveted, cover story.

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Contact: 

Michael G. Frenkel
President
M Frenkel Communications, Inc. (MFC PR)
1407 Broadway, Suite 1708
New York, NY 10018
(212) 330-8120 (office)
(201) 317-7035 (mobile)
www.mfcpr.com
michael@mfcpr.com
 

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Also See: Economy Got You Down? A Four-Step Survival Guide for Tough Times / Michael G. Frenkel / May 2008
Differentiating Your Hotel: Case Studies in 'Ground-Up' Marketing / Michael G. Frenkel / August 2003
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