Find the Human Stories in Breaking News to Engage Your Audience

December 28, 2016

Written by NewsWhip
Social Signals

Humanizing a breaking news story can create bigger and better engagement. Here’s how to master the ways to do it. 

When there’s breaking news, nearly every publisher attempts to cover it. So how can you stand out to your audience and still deliver valuable information on the news?
One way to piggyback on a big story is by looking for other related angles or media. You can drive interest by sharing personal anecdotes, photo galleries, or other historical stories that provide additional insight into a breaking news story.
These stories can humanize a massive event, or show how the effect of a breaking news story impacts individuals.
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USA Today did this by having their Miami correspondent share personally what Fidel Castro’s death meant for him and his family. The article amassed over 21,000 engagements on Facebook and sparked heated debates on the native Facebook post above.
This also gives smaller publishers a way to drive interest in their coverage of a breaking news story. Rather than a hard news sell, other publishers can report in relevant ways that they know will catch their audience’s interest.
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Though Teen Vogue doesn’t seem like an obvious publisher for covering the war in Syria, by sharing stories of individuals, they’ve personalized the crisis into something their younger audience can identify with. In the article, there are tweets from Syrian citizens in Aleppo.
Slate and Harper’s Bazaar both did this as well around the Syrian refugee crisis, with Slate covering a Syrian woman’s journey by herself, and Harper’s Bazaar covering a model’s time volunteering in the camps.
While exploring alternative angles to breaking news has long been a tactic for journalists, social media both offers a breadth of original perspectives, and indicates the stories that are having the biggest impact.
So how can you find these alternative angles for your own content? You can explore social media to see what’s being shared and how smaller sites are covering a big story. Are people sharing their own experiences, photos, and anecdotes on their personal social media accounts? What about on forums?
Spike standing rock NewsWhip
One way to cut through this digital noise is with content intelligence tools like NewsWhip Spike. We looked at Instagram content from November 1st to now, with the hashtags #standingrock and #nodapl to see how people were reacting around the Dakota Access Pipeline conflict.  
Spike can discover emerging content across social platforms and web, surfacing the type of stories that are resonating with readers around a particular topic or event. We sorted our results by comments, to see which posts were sparking the most debate. Though the top posts are from celebrities, Ian Somerhalder shares a personal anecdote, and we can dive into that post to see what memories and feelings other people are sharing. 
We can also change our view to sort by Most Recent, to see what non-celebrities are posting about a particular event.

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Water is life: I’ve spent many years focusing on fresh water issues — so the issue at Standing Rock was one of particular interest. Fellow photographer and friend @amivitale, who captured this image, traveled there recently and wrote this: When I asked him what can we do to help support #StandingRock, TJ Yellow answered me eloquently: "As an enrolled Standing Rock member, disabled combat vet, land owner, and medical provider, this really hits home for me. We need help. Not space blankets, bottles of water or sleeping bags, but help from professionals, lawyers, teachers, doctors, factory workers. Or simply put, Americans. I need them to open their eyes and hearts to this cause. We Lakota are fighting a war here. On the ground and more importantly, in the courts. I want to count. I want to be heard. I want my country to help me fight these corporations.” While the camp rejoiced recently when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will not grant an easement for the #DakotaAccessPipeline to cross under Lake Oahe, the primary drinking water supply for the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, an oil spill that the water protestors have been warning about, just happened. 176,000 gallons of crude oil spilled some 150 miles from where the demonstrators are camped. The water protectors do not plan to leave, fearing the U.S. government could reverse its decision or further action could be taken by Energy Transfer Partners to continue construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. #noDAPL #StandingRock #sacredstonecamp #dakotaaccesspipeline #standingrocksioux #standingrockreservation #waterprotectors #waterislife #standwithstandingrock #OcetiSakowin #MniWiconi #amivitale

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You can repackage these stories as new perspectives on a trending story. Often visual, they can be easier to digest on mobile. 
Sometimes, you don’t even need to look beyond your own reporting on a breaking news or hard news story. Even within your own coverage, there may be personal elements that can be their own story.
These snippet stories can lend themselves to being shareable, since they’ll often be shorter than the big picture story, and digestible. These shorter glimpses also help optimize the story for mobile and social.

Get Started

Let’s recap. How can we discover share-worthy stories within a breaking news story?

  1. Look for the personal elements within your own reporting
  2. Use search or social listening tools to find smaller, more humanized anecdotes and media
  3. Explore social media for firsthand accounts and stories related to the bigger picture

Keep the momentum around a big piece of content going. Find the stories that you know your audience will care about, within the bigger picture and tell them.

Want to kickstart your data driven storytelling? Take a free trial of NewsWhip Spike

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