Make it sexy but PLEASE don't forget the PR hook!
By Laura Rowley
8 min read
Monday, 17th August 2020
If there’s one thing my three-year Journalism degree taught me (apart from how to write my name in shorthand) it’s always think about the ‘who, what, where, when and why’ - these are the basics of creating a good hook for any story.
This applies to successful PR campaigns too! But deciding on your campaign’s hook shouldn’t just come when you’re writing your press release, you need to be thinking about the hook right at campaign ideation.
As PRs we love sexy, visual assets that take our campaign from a simple blog to a link building dream, but it’s important to not lose sight of why you’re creating a campaign - and that is to generate coverage and ultimately build links.
So while it needs to be sexy AF, it also needs to have a newsworthy angle that’s going to hook journalists in.
What makes a good hook?
Creating a good PR hook is the hardest but the most important part of any PR strategy. A blog post, with poor graphics and a taboo brand can still get links if the headline is awesome. But at Rise, we want to make sure ALL OF IT is awesome - to ensure both earned and natural links.
Remember I said about the ‘who, what, where, when and why’? Well, those are the key questions which will help you nail down your campaign hook.
For me, actually learning and implementing that didn’t come until my first ever graduate role at my local newspaper, where I spent two years as the paper’s Features Writer. I covered everything from local news about unsung heroes to advertorials on bi-folding doors - and it taught me how to look for the hook in everything.
But what do these five W’s actually mean for PR?
🙋🏼♀️ Who? This covers who is referenced in the story, but you could also think about who does it appeal to? Like celebrity fanatics or new homeowners.
🏖 What? What is the story about? Can you nail it down in one sentence? Is it a travel guide, a new product, a data study?
🌍 Where? Is the story relevant for the national and regional press? Or does it have wider international reach too?
⏰ When? Is it a hot topic that journalists are talking about now? If not, is it still current?
❓ Why? Is the story worth covering? Is it something you’d want to read or would discuss it down at the pub?
And wrap it up with a “But do people give a f**k?”. You’ve probably heard about the mum test Carrie speaks about or the pub test most PRs follow - would this story get spoken about in the pub or capture the attention of your mum? If no - start again.
So how do we apply these to our PR campaigns?
Ideation can be the funnest part of a campaign - especially when it comes to brainstorming with the Rise PR team, because it’s all about crazy and wonderful ideas. But it’s important to be mindful of what your hook is going to be from the start.
Once you’ve got a few ideas together it’s time to vet them all. Although an idea may sound amazing and could look great, if it isn’t going to work for the press then move on to the next idea.
When vetting your idea, constantly refer back to those five W’s, ask yourself if you would read the story and try out a few sample headlines. This should give you an idea of whether it will work or not.
The worst thing you can do is push through a campaign you don’t believe in, because it won’t work!
Some sexy AF campaigns that bagged the links
At Rise At Seven we’re all about mixing creative flair with a knowledge of what journalists want. Here are some campaigns that did just that and the hook we went for…
If Light Pollution Cleared
This campaign took 27 of the worst light polluted cities in the world to reveal what they would look like if you took away light pollution. It was a perfect visual piece that was designed as a stunning landing page, but it also had MAJOR international appeal, landing 76 links over on sites like Sky News, Forbes and Metro.
The Hook: This is what the night sky in the world’s biggest cities would look like if there was no light pollution
The Future Gamer
Now this campaign went viral! Why? Because it was perfectly executed from design to outreach. The Future Gamer campaign unveiled what avid gamers could look like in 20 years if they didn’t change their lifestyle. Although visually, it looked fantastic, it was also packed full of statistics and had the shock value that journalists are looking for. It landed over 400 links internationally.
The Hook: If avid gamers don’t change their lifestyle now, this is what they could look like and the conditions they could suffer from in the future
The Carfluencer Rich List
This campaign took data, research and the media’s interest in influencers to create an insightful story that sits on a well designed landing page. The Carfluencer Rich List unveiled the car industries biggest social media influencers, and how much money they actually made per year and per post. The story landed 62 links not just in the UK but around the world.
The Hook: This is how much car influencers make per post and per year by sharing their content on Instagram
How did they all make it to press?
So, what do all these campaigns have in common? They are all visually impressive in their own right, but they didn’t just rely on stunning design to make an impact. They all had the perfect hook to sell the story to journalists and they all followed those five W’s.
For example, with the Light Pollution campaign...
Who: It appeals to city dwellers, stargazers, environmentalists and would be of general interest to most of the world
What: It revealed what some of the world’s biggest cities would look like without any light pollution
Where: The campaign chose cities from across the world, giving it international appeal
When: It’s current and affecting the world right now
Why: Journalists want to cover a story like this because it’s something their audience would click on and engage with
Never underestimate the power of a good headline
When outreaching your PR campaign to journalists, one of the most important things you can do is get your headline right. A good headline is what will hook readers into your story - and that applies for PRs looking to hook in journalists too.
Journalists are SO busy so it’s important we make it easy for them. They want to know if they can cover a story just by looking at a subject line or headline.
So when writing up your outreach email, try out a few different headlines and have a think about whether or not it’s something the journalist would publish for their own readers. Go with your gut, but don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion someone else could have a completely different take on the story to you, so figure out what works.
Choosing the headline
Write down your hook and visualise it as a headline in a publication you're aiming for. Think about how The Sun, Daily Mail or Ladbible write their headlines and structure their stories and mimic it. Once you've nailed that, work backwards of what the asset should be, how do we tell the story.
Some tips from Rise at Seven Founder, Carrie Rose:
Telegraph - love the word revealed but also focus on the creative (Photo series, new map, interactive)
The Sun - always start their stories with two words to capture your attention e.g “Boobjob Britain: …” or “Dirty Money”
Daily Mail - very clickbait, don't always reveal everything in the headline but make you want to know more
Ladbible - They get straight to the point. No fluffiness, say it how it is but capture through entertainment and strong imagery.
Its important to analyse how each publications tell their story and tailor your pitch in that way
Tips from the Rise PR team
Struggling to find the hook in your campaign ideas? Well here are some tips from my amazing team…
Kate, Digital PR Strategist: “I always think ‘what would make me click on the story’ or I look at my favourite/target publications and see the types of hooks and language they use to put something together I know the audience will want to read.”
Thea, Digital PR Executive: “Research, research, research! Have a creative eye but also look at what campaigns have done well in the past to help you develop your strategy.“
Nicci, Digital PR Strategist: “The main thing I always think about is… Imagine telling your friend about the campaign and you need to sum it up in a single sentence. If you can, write that sentence down. That’s going to be your main hook. If you can’t sum it up in one line, you’ve probably got a broad concept, not a hook.”
Need a bit of help?
If you’re looking for PR campaigns that can build top tier links on the biggest sites, then you’ve come to the right place.
Drop me an email at email@example.com or message me on Twitter and let’s have a chat!