Bernard O'Riordan, Media Trainer
It’s no secret that the media world is awash with superlatives these days - adjectives or descriptive words that usually end in “st”.
Whether it’s the tallest building, the fastest train, the hottest day or the world’s richest woman, superlatives are now an important ingredient when reporting in the digital age, including social media platforms like Twitter where every word counts.
That’s because superlatives hook us instantly by telling us the significance of a situation or an event. Someone might only skim the first two or three paragraphs of a story in the newspaper or online, but a well-placed superlative might encourage them to read on.
That’s why I always encourage media training participants to choose one superlative that best sums up their announcement or interview topic.
By highlighting it early, you are signaling to a reporter that you are newsworthy and that you have a story to tell.
Think about what may be said of your organisation or the deal you’re announcing. You may want to use an 'st' word to contextualise an incident or a deal.
Maybe it’s the first time your company has done something significant. Perhaps it’s been the most costly regulation to face your industry. Or maybe you’ve introduced the lowest prices the industry has seen.
If you plan to deliver ONE superlative that best captures a situation or event, you are not only more interesting to a reporter, but chances are you are helping to shape they type of story they might write.
I say ONE superlative, because any more than one can be overkill. It’s like a red flag to a reporter when they are bombarded by an overly-enthusiastic interviewee wildly throwing superlatives around. They are most likely going to tune out.
But a word of warning it's easy to make errors with superlatives, so make sure your claims are accurate and watertight. If you say it’s the first time something has happened, be sure that’s the case or a reporter will not hesitate to prove you wrong, particularly if a competitor is involved.
It’s also important in the digital age – when reporters are over-worked and sifting through three or four stories – to convince them early about the merits of your story.
Make it easy for a news editor or journalist to spot a good story by feeding them a strong superlative. This way you are delivering the most important point to them quickly.
Be aware though that superlatives are also used by the media in a crisis – often against a company or individual who may have done wrong or who is in trouble.
So before dealing with the media, think about which 'st' words you want associated with your announcement or incident when there’s bad news to tell.
Rather than letting reporters write about the worst disaster or the biggest revenue fall, reframe a nasty situation by feeding them your own superlative.
If you have the best team of experts working to resolve an issue, or the brightest prospects for sales, don’t wait to be asked. Tell them early and tell them often.