Never underestimate the power of a great story. That was the key takeaway from Business & Arts NL’s latest online workshop, hosted by Jen White, Producer/Reporter with CBC NL, and Amanda Molloy, Producer, Marketing Communications and Brand with CBC Atlantic.
Just under 40 participants gathered together virtually via Zoom to learn more about how to get attention from the media to help promote their events, festivals and projects. The free session was engaging and informative as it looked at how to shift from promotion to storytelling, with a focus on the 5 Ws (and 1 H): what makes a good story, who is the audience, when people should contact the media, where they should tell their story, why it’s hard to do, and how they should share and follow up.
Ultimately, stories involve a person doing something for a specific reason (the set-up or “hook”) White said, as she encouraged participants to dive deeper and focus on how that applies to their own businesses and organizations. The elements of a good news story, she added, include timeliness (“It is called news for a reason, it is happening right now,” she said), proximity (“People want to hear about things that are happening locally, so either within their own community, their town or their province”), impact or consequence (“How is it impacting their lives? Does it matter to me and why should people care about this?”), novelty or rarity (“Is it unusual that this is happening? Is it the first time that it’s happening?”), conflict (“What is the drama at the centre of this story?”), human interest (“Having a bird’s-eye view, looking at someone else’s experiences that may be different from their own”), and prominence (“Someone who is a celebrity, a politician – someone who’s well known”). “Most good news stories have at least two or three of these qualities,” White said.
Once people consider some of these elements, Molloy added, they can start considering their audience.
“I like to use the example of if you had a really bad day. You go home from work, you’re going to call your mom, you might tell your mom all about the day. The way that you tell your mom about that bad day will be distinctly different from the way you might tell your best friend over a glass of wine, or how you might tell your boss…You want to make sure that you’re pitching your stories to the right audience,” she said.
“You always want to have an outcome. You want the audience to think, feel, or do something as a result of the news that you’re sharing.”
The facilitators also touched on when and how to contact the media, how to write an effective email that grabs attention, and how to connect with reporters and audiences over social media. They also provided expert pitch tips before taking questions, and gave participants an opportunity to try their own hand at creating a one-minute/500 word pitch through a voluntary “homework” assignment. Molloy reiterated the importance of considering who is at the core of the story.
“Make sure you have someone at the centre of the story – what are they doing? Why are they doing it? Who are the audience members that you want in the front row to really hear your story…what’s the call to action?” she said. “Timeliness is at the core of news at the end of the day.”
Thanks to both Jen and Amanda for leading a fantastic session!