In the newspaper business when an article gets ‘spiked’ it means it’s been dumped. In the old-style newspaper office a metal spike mounted on a wooden block was on every editor’s desk. Articles that didn’t make the grade were spiked – and then the office junior would come round and collect the paper to throw away.
In today’s world health and safety wouldn’t allow dangerous spikes in the office, but there’s no need as hitting the delete key takes much less effort!
So what will get your press release or article spiked?
- Blatant sales promotion
- No story that will interest the publication’s readers
- Doesn’t match the type of item the publication normally prints
- No facts, quotes or topical connections
- Nothing new or interesting
There is never any guarantee that your press release will get published, but to give it the best chance you need to think about what will get the editor’s attention. You need a hook to draw them in.
A hook could be:
- Saying something controversial (as long as you don’t resort to libel)
- Stating a strong opinion – as long as you can back it up with a rationale
- Something that relates to a topical issue – as long as it’s relevant for this publication
- Notable statistics – what can you prove, the more unexpected the better, but don’t invent these, you’ll need to provide your sources
- Something that has an impact on the local community
Make sure your hook shows up in the headline, the opening paragraph and the subject line of the email you send it in.
If you’re coming down strongly with one point of view, be prepared that the editor will be looking for someone who holds an opposing opinion to give the item balance. They may even ask to interview you both to develop the article, so be ready for a debate – just remember to remain professional and don’t descend into insult-throwing.
An alternative might be a human interest story, but there does need to be a story. This might be:
- A case study showing unusual outcomes
- A profile of someone in your team with an interesting history or who has achieved something exceptional
- The journey from idea to production of a new product – as long as there’s an interesting twist to create the interest
‘We’ve opened a new office’
‘Joe Bloggs has joined our team’
‘We’re launching a new product’
‘We’re putting on an event’
Will almost certainly be spiked. They may be interesting to you, but not to most of the other people in the readership. The latter two will be spotted by most editors as direct promotion – and, while they understand that any press release has an element of promotion, they don’t like being used for free advertising.
Be creative, learn to think laterally and you’ll start to see hooks that will avoid being spiked and actually appear in print.