What is a Human Interest Story?

An Excerpt from Be the News: A Guide to Going Viral With Your Human Interest Story
Many news stories are focused on reporting the facts, especially those facts which involve money, sex, drugs or rock and roll. You might find this gets both boring and depressing after a while unless you have specific interest in the details.

While we might have a lot of interest in the election results, a cure for cancer, a food recall, or what tomorrow’s temperature will be in your fair city, news media may want to add local flavor or want to put a “face” on the news by covering a story or topic more in depth.  This is sometimes referred to as the story-behind-the-story, the “better half” of a story, or the sidebar.

The human interest story may look at a news item in a more personal, emotional way. This is accomplished by pressing the flesh with people who have been directly affected by it or creating a report on one or several people facing challenges that it may have uncovered. The mission of covering these stories is to grab us by our emotional shirt collars and make us think and form an opinion.

It’s rare to see a nightly newscast or a morning newspaper without at least one human interest story. Most have a standard location for them, in broadcast, it is often the last story told before signoff. 

A newspaper might be covering post-hurricane financial losses and have an article that deals with statistics regarding them. To push past the grind, they might have a sidebar article on a few people in the town that is rebuilding.  The main topic is the hurricane, but the underlying emotional piece is how it affected people, like you and me. It gives a whole new paradigm to understanding the losses and puts them in a feeling perspective – beyond the facts.

In contrast to a regular and objective news story, the rules of journalism are bit looser, dare I say, even slightly more subjective with human interest topics. In some cases the story is so intense that the reporter barely needs more than the facts as they are reported. Other times, the story needs to be reigned in. A slant is sometimes created and then the job of the human interest story is to add perspective rather than the opposite happening.  

If yours is a human interest story, it doesn’t have to be deeply stirring and emotional, just on-topic or perhaps more for light laughs (if that falls within your goal for going wide with it to begin with). This is especially true when news venues are leading with gory, crime laden flavored journalism.  Stories that meet neither of those end goals can make it into the news just as a diversion to the hard stuff to make it more palatable to the viewer. If the lighter material wasn’t there, readers and viewers would sooner turn the page or the channel to avoid the ugly news.

Great Tools to Track Your Footprints on the Internet

Are there good tools on the web for me to track mentions of my name, my company's brand, topics or subjects that I'm invested in? The following are just a few of the tools you can use to keep track of your imprint on the web.
Social Mention: Mentions of your Name on the Social Web
A great tool for searching the social Web, Social Mention offers a quick glance at mentions of your name on the Web. Just enter your name and switch between blogs, microblogs, bookmarks, comments, events, images, news or all of them at once. An RSS feed is available.

Pipl: Searching the Invisible Web
Pipl claims to search the Web to find documents, blog entries, photos, publicly available information that other search engines don't serve up. It's a great, fast search engine that I like; the only disadvantage is it offers no RSS feed.

Monitter: Tracking Twitter
Monitter is one of the coolest looking monitoring tools for Twitter and one of the most useful. Although most people are using Twitter's own search tool for search and alerts on Twitter, Monitter offers a little bit more. Giving you the option to search for three different keywords at once, Monitter is great if you want to keep your eye out for mentions of your name, your username and your company all at the same time. It also offers an RSS feed. Monitter also allows you to narrow the search to a particular geographic location, allowing you to find out what’s going on in a particular area of the world.

BoardTracker: The Ultimate Search Tool for Forums
BoardTracker is a forum search engine, message tracking and instant alert system offering relevant results quickly. It’s a great search tool for forums and message boards.

Google Alerts: The Big G
I couldn't end this post without mentioning Google Alerts, although likely most of you are familiar with it outside of what I’ve written here in this book. Although Microsoft and Yahoo have alert tools, I find that Google's offering beats them hands down. It offers e-mail and RSS alerts for any set of keywords including your name.


How to Create Your Own Media List

This resource page is an excerpt from Be the News: A Guide to Going Viral With Your Human Interest Story, a highly reviewed Amazon Bestseller! 5 Stars!!!! Buy Your Copy By Clicking Here!

1. Decide which media outlets you want to target. You probably wouldn't pitch a story about senior citizens to an alternative rock radio station. Choose the media that will have an interest in your story.

2. Go to the web site for each media outlet. Most have a "Contact Us" page, but do not send your story idea to a general contact email address.

3. Look for an editor, producer or reporter and find their email address. Often, you will find it on a profile page for the person, or on a page with a story they did. Tip: You may have greater success contacting an editor or producer than a reporter.

4. If you can't find an email address for a specific person, try using the organization's default email structure. Most companies use a standard format for employees at their company email addresses. For example, they might be first.last@media.com, or firstlast@media.com or firstinitallast@media.com. If you want to reach reporter Jim Smith, but can't find his email address, see what the structure is for other employees there. Then, use that structure for Jim. If the addresses you found were first.last@media.com, try jim.smith@media.com.

5. Consider buying a list of media contacts. There are sources where you can buy a list of media email addresses and other contact information. If you want to reach a lot of media outlets, or can't find contacts for the ones you want, buying a list might be the best way to go.

Good Tips to Remember

·         Keep your pitches short and to the point. Never deluge your contact.

·         Put all information in the body of an email. Never use attachments.

·         Never spam media outlets. Send personal pitches to each contact.

Why I wrote Be The News: A Guide to Going Viral With Your Human Interest Story

The reviewers love it and I am ever humbled! Be the News: A Guide to Going Viral with Your Human Interest Story has marched its way up the ranks of bestselling books at Amazon to the #1 spot in its category. 

After much rumination and over 2,000 hours spent on writing a memoir of our personal family story I found myself wondering about the 15 minute of fame rule. How do news stories that dominate the landscape of every media venue in the country end up looking like isolated examples with nary a trace of change effected by them just a few months or years later? Is it apathy or is it just because we are a flash in the pan society? I refuse to subscribe to either of those possibilities and can merely surmise that there just aren't tipping points on the meaningful issues at the foundation of the stories.  So, I set aside my memoir to write a simple to follow How-To book about going viral.

It's hard to risk your reputation for something you believe in. I cover this extensively in Be the News. It's hard, but it's not without a well won sense of accomplishment if it helps to effect change. There are specific steps you must take in order to prepare your story for release. It is key that the reason for your story is not ego-centric but issue or story-centric and that you position the mission of your decision to speak out ON TOPIC. Again, identifying a topic that is relevant and newsworthy already puts you in the "back story or side-bar" category to most journalists and that moves you closer to having a venue to speak through. 
Carrying a media megaphone isn't the way to ingratiating yourself with journalists but carefully plotting who you trust with your story based on their experience with others like it, as well as their overall integrity is. If you have a story, business related or otherwise, that you would like to see the media grab onto, there are specific steps you must take in order to gain the attention you want. Be the News is the only how-to guide offering the insights as to what those steps are. 

My seasoning of over 26 years of public and media relations and strategic marketing expertise didn't even begin to prepare me for the days I hid in my basement avoiding the media on a hunt for my story. I wrote the book from the standpoint of the things I did right in addition to the things I did wrong, but mostly from the standpoint of things I didn't think about at all as an outgrowth of the intention to advocate on a larger issue. 

Our story started a national discussion. If I were to be a little more candid, what it started was a real (and sometimes nasty) national argument. Did it effect change? If our appearance on live national TV and our 10,000+ newswire pickups and radio interviews saved even one child from the legacy of FASD, then yes, I believe it effected change! Would I like to see more change? You bet! Which is why I wrote Be the News. With this step by step guide to going viral with your story, more people can stand up for their right to effect change and make a difference. So go ahead, think about going viral, but don't do anything until you read Be the News. It will prepare you in a way no other book will.