Which news hooks work for journalists in Central Asia, how to evaluate them, and which topics are better left alone? Tips from the CEO of ITCOMMS, a PR agency for IT business.
Hi, my name is Alexander Likhtman, Founder and CEO of ITCOMMS, a PR agency for IT business. In this article, I will tell you how to generate news that will interest major media not only in Kazakhstan but also in other Central Asian countries with interesting case studies and peculiarities of media in this region.
Alexander Likhtman, Founder and CEO of ITCOMMS, a PR agency for IT business / LinkedIn
A good news hook is interesting
A news hook is when the company itself generates an interesting event that attracts the audience’s attention. The media publish such materials for free because an extraordinary story guarantees a large number of readers.
A news hook does not arise on its own. You need to come up with it and present it properly. For example, few are interested in reading a short, boring summary of quarterly profits. But news about funding a promising startup with a unique product will interest many.
It’s all about the size of the audience and how interesting the event itself is. In the first case, the news will likely only interest the company’s competitors and financial analysts. Because it all comes down to the usual infusion of finances into another project.
And here’s a news hook about attracting investment in a startup with a new idea that attracts the attention of the general public:
Potential users learn about the company and its products;
Stock market players and traders get information about a promising company to invest in;
Readers of IT and business media will not miss a new reason to discuss and make predictions on social media;
The audience not very interested in technology will once again feel proud of a company from their compatriots that is conquering the market.
In addition, a news hook about attracting investment creates a “buzz” around itself. Industry experts love to publicly comment on such news, and the media likes to compare and analyze the successes and failures of startups in similar niches. And each time the company and its product will be mentioned in the very positive context of attracting investment.
A good news hook is the key to the heart of the media and the audience
Therefore, it is important to distinguish which event will become a good news hook, and which one is a ticket to the advertising department.
To avoid creative agony, you can use a few classic formats that are always of interest to the media, which I will talk about below.
Finding the key to the heart of the media
An event for a news hook can be very different, but several genres help companies in Central Asia come up with news without lengthy assessments — “Is it interesting?”
Success story or not quite success
Tell us how you came up with the product, assembled a team of unrecognized geniuses, and pitched a lot to investors. Such stories work like movies, which is why they are great to read even for people far from IT. The main thing is not to focus only on achievements. Then interest is lost and the news hook becomes a report on “successful success”.
Talk about the mistakes you made or share your experience of getting out of difficult situations. For example, a failed pitch to investors can become a reason to publish.
It is important to avoid direct advertising of the company and focus on processes. For example, it’s boring to talk about how you have already entered the market and captured its segment. But telling the story of the difficulties the company faced and how a new product works is already a story.
In Central Asia, most IT companies operate in the domestic market. International brands generate most exports with their offices in the region. Because of this, news about the global success of local companies becomes a loud news hook. Entering the US, European or Southeast Asian markets automatically attracts the attention of journalists from IT and business media.
The main thing is that real numbers and interesting facts stand behind the news hook. For example, a partnership on product development in an outsourcing format or a full-fledged entry into the international market becomes interesting news.
But boring negotiations, business trips, and signing memorandums of intent are unlikely to garner interest.
A good example of a global news hook is the success of the Kazakh startup CerebraAI. The team took part in the world’s largest startup competition — TechCrunch. As a result, CerebraAI became one of 200 startups in the world selected to present to investors and participate in TechCrunch. This was covered by dozens of major media outlets in Kazakhstan. Among them: Forbes.kz, Kursiv, Bluescreen, Digital Business and many others.
By the way, the news story has a continuation. After TechCrunch, investors invested $4.1 million in CerebraAI. Of course, this was also covered in Kazakh media.
An excellent way to tell about yourself and your product in a native format. The essence of newsjacking is reacting to trends. The earlier you see an important trend and the more interestingly you react, the better.
For example, we launched our service for generating press releases based on artificial intelligence. The news hook worked because it was a continuation of the general trend of discussing Chat GPT-4 capabilities in the media.
Corporate newsjacking can also be used more creatively. For example, ironically commenting on the agenda and reacting to trending situations with funny pictures.
The same to newsjacking, but you only need to respond to significant events in the role of an expert. For example, you can talk about how a new law will affect the market in which the company operates. Or assess some innovation with a forecast for the future. Such comments allow the company or its representative to create a strong expert image. And if you do this regularly, then after some time the media will pick up your comments themselves or turn to you when writing news. And you get free PR without having to generate a news hook yourself.
When two CEOs argue with each other on social media, or two companies make ironic remarks about each other with funny pictures — this becomes a separate news hook.
Media find conflicts especially interesting when companies of different scales clash. Battles of the Titans are fought on equal terms, but a conflict between an international giant and a local player always sets intrigue and spectacle.
For example, in early 2023 there was a heated discussion between Relog startup CEO Baurzhan Rustemov and Kazpost CEO Assel Zhanasova. The topic was the openness of IT procurement among national companies in Kazakhstan. The local battle of two CEOs on social media quickly became news for the media.
These genres allow you to relatively easily and regularly create new news hooks that will appeal to the media. But there are a couple of topics to avoid.
What not to write about?
There are some topics that companies should avoid in Central Asian countries.
Thus, I would not recommend generating news hooks on sharp political, religious and social issues. Many media follow the principles of self-censorship and simply will not take an interesting, bright, but risky news hook. In addition, you can get problems from the audience here. You’ll get reach, but will people continue to work with you and can you handle the backlash? Big question.
I also wouldn’t hype someone else’s grief. That is, not launch PR campaigns or use unfortunate accidents or negative trends as news hooks.
This applies not only to the media but also to the public field as a whole. One example: Kazakh blogger Alihan Bayzakov published a video on his Instagram, showing how he would react if his girlfriend refused his offer of marriage. The issue of domestic violence is very acute in the country and, of course, such a video outraged the public. The story itself was published in many media outlets in the country.
By the way, the INVICTUS fitness club (where the video was filmed — their logo was on the video) reacted to the scandal: they issued a statement clearly stating their position that they do not support domestic violence and revoked the blogger’s access to the club.
In general, I first recommend using formats that work to ensure you get coverage. Even the most interesting event still needs to interest the media.
How to guarantee a news comes out? The short answer is to study the media market, its players and its audience in each country. How to do it? I talked about this in a couple of recent articles on medium.com.
Spoiler: many media outlets simply survive by publishing paid content. How to avoid this? Build personal relationships with editors.
In addition to working with the media, it is important to find your audience across different media channels. I talk about media consumption across all platforms in the countries of the region in another article with examples from several countries: social media, messengers, radio, television and online media. Click and enjoy the case studies and insider insights — here.