Last month I ran an event called What Journalists Want -an annual workshop where I get top national journalists and public relations pros in a room for a day to talk about what makes a great media story.
As we were getting set up for the event, one of the guys working at the venue (the Swiss Church near Covent Garden, London) mentioned he was holding a photography exhibition.
'I used to be homeless see. So I photographed every doorway I ever slept in,' he told me.
I couldn't stop the words coming out of my mouth. 'Are you talking to any journalists about that?'
By the end of the day I'd introduced him to colleagues from the BBC, ITV, Metro and Independent - all who seemed genuinely interested in covering his story.
There was something ironic about the situation; there I was, holding a conference for people who were were desperate to get journalists interested in their stories...and the best story of the day came from a casual conversation with the guy working at the venue.
I've often heard exasperated-sounding journalists on the phone saying things like. "Yes, but what's your top line?'
Andy nailed it in eight words: 'I photographed every doorway I ever slept in.'
I share this because, as a journalist with 15 years' experience writing and editing for national publications, it sometimes baffles me that people struggle to understand what journalists want.
That businesses - large and small - throw SO much money at PR companies and consultants to write press releases that don't get read and phone journalists who never return their calls about stories they will never be interested in.
Andy's story tells you pretty much everything you need to know about what journalists are looking for and it's simply this: great stories.
Stories people want to share with other people because they surprise them, touch their hearts - or even make them angry.
Stories that make people feel something.
Everyone I spoke to was interested in Andy. They were curious, fascinated and shocked by his story (he'd been homeless for 30 years) and wanted to know more. We (my events team) talked about it on the way home and I'm sure we weren't the only ones.
We talked about it because we cared about the issues it raised.
It was a story with heart.
Now I'm not saying you need an 'Andy' story to get media coverage. But your story does need some of those qualities.
It needs to be a good yarn.
So if you're reading this and you work in PR - or would like to get journalists interested in covering your business or brand - next time you go to pitch a story about a new website, merger or product launch, do think about Andy's story.
Does your story have heart?
If not, is there a story you could tell that does?Suggest a correction