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The Most Overlooked Quality Needed for Successful PR: News Judgement
Friday, 09 September 2011 11:35

Recognizing news when you see it is harder than you might think. There's a lot of advice out there about how be successful in PR, but developing solid "news judgement" is the often-overlooked key ingredient.

Some things happen and there's no question: it's news. Front page news. Banner headline news. One Sunday night not too long ago we learned that American special forces had killed Osama bin Laden, and you just knew it would be on the front page of every newspaper the next morning.Front page New York Times Bin Laden Killed

But most days aren't like that. Day in and day out, editors and reporters make dozens of judgements a day about what is news and what is not, what deserves to be on the front page, and what deserves to be buried on page 19 of the D section.

PR professionals without good news judgement are as likely to torpedo their chances at successful placements than anything else. A good list, a well-written pitch, a personal relationship with the reporter – all are for nought without solid news judgement.

Actually, a PR professional's news judgement needs to be even better than a reporter's. A reporter needs to decide what is newsy enough for their beat, in their newspaper. A PR pro needs to figure out which news from which clients are appropriate for which market, which outlet, and which reporter. If you get it wrong – well, good luck.

A lot of people think they have news judgement and really don't. They think they have it because they can tell the difference between a banner headline and a back-page brief (killing bin Laden is the banner headline; killing the third-in-command of al Qaeda in Yemen is the brief).

In fact, saying you have solid news judgement because you read the newspaper is a bit like saying you're in shape because you watch sports. In reality, getting good takes practice. Getting great takes practice plus natural athleticism.

For the PR pro, developing solid news judgement is essential to success. But it helps if you've got a little natural ability to begin with.