GG’s Jordyn Warren breaks down why human-interest narratives are valuable in cutting through the noise and best practices for getting started.
In a world saturated with breaking news, it’s easy for people working in PR to get swept up in fast-moving headlines and overlook the value of human-focused storytelling. When executed effectively, human-interest stories can be invaluable to any organization’s communication strategy: they approach an issue from a unique perspective, bring new voices and validators into the conversation, and resonate emotionally with audiences.
Human-interest narratives make intangible concepts feel real to readers. Understanding how an issue actually plays out in people’s lives allows the audience to learn more and inspires them to act. These types of stories put a face to otherwise abstract subjects and highlight real-world impacts.
Human-interest stories must be told with care. Ensure you’re bringing awareness to your issue while telling a story that empowers the people involved. Approaching a human-interest narrative can feel like a daunting task, but with these tips in mind you can create a compelling narrative that showcases your organization’s work.
Gaining the consent and participation of those involved is an essential starting point in crafting a human-interest narrative. Before anything else, talk to the person or people you intend to profile. Ask questions: Would they be open to pictures, video, or audio being featured in media coverage? Are their family members open to being involved? How much of their past can we share? Your priority should be ensuring they understand the process, are equipped to participate, and most importantly, that they’re comfortable. Ultimately, this is their story, and they should decide how it’s told.
Crafting a compelling pitch around human experiences can be challenging due to complex storylines. While background and context are crucial, the focus should zero in on the impact and significance of the events that took place on individuals’ lives. What’s the headline? Whether your organization reversed a 20-year deportation or innovated in the treatment of multiple sclerosis and other diseases, lead with these details to grab a reporter’s attention. It’s tempting to immediately lay out the story and the nuances of what happened. Keep your initial pitch punchy, with a clear narrative arc. Save the nitty-gritty details for later in the pitch or follow-ups. Make the reason the reporter should keep reading clear.
Human-interest stories can take weeks or months to come to fruition, and the story can go in many different directions as the reporter uncovers new details and conducts interviews. In your initial pitch, follow ups, and all communications, keep your organization’s involvement and perspective top of mind. Set up interviews with your spokesperson, share data, offer the bigger-picture perspective that complements the story, and help the reporter reach the finish line.
In public relations, the human-interest element of a story bridges the gap between statistics and the real impact behind the headlines. The stories that often resonate with readers the most are those that show the lives of everyday people. By crafting a narrative that highlights the connection between your organization and real results, you can bring a new dimension to the public conversation and show why your work matters.