Exploring the Business Angle

Problem

Your organization is preparing to pitch its story, and you think your issue may have a business angle, but you’re not sure how to pitch it. How does pitching your story as a business or economic story change how it’s perceived by the public? Does turning your issue into a business story really benefit its potential for press coverage?

 

Strategy

Businesses, in particular large corporations, have long been thought of as the arch enemies of environmentalists—reluctant to change environmentally damaging policies and procedures because of little economic incentive. But there have been great successes in creating alliances between enviros and businessmen, and more and more environmental stories are now turning up in the business section. Backers other than the typical activists make the story more interesting—and also increase your credibility as an organization.

 

Why the business angle improves your coverage

When your story is pitched as a hard news story, you have a lot to compete with. Unless an environmental story is already extremely controversial, chances are it won’t make the front page. A business angle gives editors another way to read the issue. A seemingly bland environmental story suddenly seems accessible and applicable to much more people when a business angle is applied. Local economy affects everyone, so an economic angle makes the article much more readable.

 

How to create a business angle

There are many environmental issues that directly affect the economy. When it’s whale season on the coast of Washington, tourism and local business activity spikes. Fishing and boating, industries dependent on healthy waters and shores, provide major income to many port cities all over the country. Find out what industry benefits from your environmental issue, and do some research. If your issue is clean energy, look to hydropower construction bids. If it’s water, talk to local commercial fishermen. You may be surprised to find that you have more in common with them than you think.

 

Writing a business story pitch

Business reporters tend to be more conservative—they’re most interested in the money issue, so expect less sympathy. With that in mind, when writing your story pitch, try to keep it as business-oriented as possible—include plenty of details and data.

 

If there’s a profile of a person in your story, emphasize that in your story pitch. Business reporters are so used to dealing with numbers only; they enjoy looking for the human angle to business stories for a change.

 

 

Localizing the issue

Another benefit of the business angle is it localizes the issue. Once you have some local businessmen speak out about a certain issue, it makes the story “hit close to home.” Editors and reporters are always looking for a local angle—give it to them with businesses that may already be household names.

 

Get businessmen to talk

If a bunch of environmental activists speak out about damage being done to the environment, it’s been heard before. If local businessmen, who provide jobs and economy to the community, speak about it, suddenly it’s news. Because businessmen are atypical spokespeople for environmental issues, it raises the profile of the story. Businessmen are generally not thought of as “troublemakers” for the state, unlike environmentalists. So their message will seem much more palatable to the average reader, even if it is essentially the same as yours.

 

Piggy-back on a business’s big name

Most people have never heard of the numerous small environmental organizations out there—yours included. But the majority of Americans are extremely skilled at remembering brand names, especially big ones. When Tiffany’s made headlines earlier this year by blasting the mining industry’s environmental practices, people’s eyes snapped to the headlines—simply because they recognized Tiffany’s name. Big names are a great way to get people’s attention, so try approaching some recognizable companies if you think they might see eye to eye with your mission.

 

By pitching your story as a business story, you have expanded the pool of reporters, editors, and publications to pursue as potential outlets for coverage. Even though exploring a business angle can be challenging because it requires you to switch gears, you may find this section of the newspaper to be just as rewarding as the front page.

 

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June 2004

 

This Media Tip is sponsored by The Mountaineers Foundation