Thursday, May 21, 2015

What makes news? Human Interest

There are many reasons why some stories catch the attention of a reporter, and lots of reasons why others won't. Today, we're going to explore one aspect that can really push your story into the fore.
  • Timeliness
  • Proximity
  • Impact or Consequence
  • Novelty or Rarity
  • Conflict
  • Human interest
  • Prominence
The human element can make or break a story.

The human element
In fact, one of the first things I tell each and every class that I instruct that all stories are about people. It doesn't matter what the story is about - if you can get someone's story into the mix, reporters will come running. 

A few years ago, our county was pushing a host home plan for people who had to evacuate before a hurricane. We thought we had everything - a great pitch line, materials, statistics ... the whole shebang. What we didn't have? A family who would be taking advantage of the plan.

A family taking advantage of the host home program
Once we identified a church that was working to pair members of the congregation who had to evacuate with those who didn't, well, the reporters came running. 

What else are reporters looking for when it comes to the human element in hard news stories? How about the firefighter who rescues a beloved family pet, a police officer who comforts a child after a stressful situation such as an auto accident or a paramedic holding the hand of a trauma victim while being rescued from a wreck? Believe me, if a reporter can get an image of something like that, you can be sure you will see that story in the news. 

 An image like this will make the news
People also need to know that you care before they care what you have to say. After last week's Amtrak crash just outside of Philadelphia, President Obama went on the air to offer his condolences to the families of the victims of the accident. No, the president of the United States didn't have a role in the accident investigation, nor was he rescuing anyone contained in the train. He was filling the role of the concerned elected leader who wanted to ensure that those who were killed and injured in the accident and their families were on his mind.

President Obama offering his thoughts and prayers to the Amtrak crash victims
This is exactly what ever other elected official has done after any natural or man made accident. Think President Bush standing with the firefighter on the rubble of the World Trade Center after the September 11 attacks. Waco, Texas Mayor Tommy Muska expressing his concern for a number of missing volunteer firefighters after the West Fertilizer plant exploded. 

It shows the reporters that the leader is there to support the effort and to reach out to the families involved. Indeed, it's the human touch that helps to ensure that the plight of the people involved in the incident hasn't been forgotten. 

That may make the difference in how your story is covered. 

Tom Iovino, Public Relations Strategist
Hillsborough County, Florida

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