Story Crafting: Digging Deeper for News Value

katie_fittzNow that we know how to relate to the media, it’s important to focus on what type of story to take to reporters.  Sometimes it is difficult in the senior living industry to find stories that can be compelling to the general public.

When looking at an Independent Living calendar, you might see listings like knitting class, Bingo, or painting class, and have a mini panic attack trying to figure out how you are going to find a story that will interest the public. The first rule of “story mining” is to always dig deeper and ask questions. Maybe the knitting class knits scarves and hats and donates them to a homeless shelter. Perhaps residents with Alzheimer’s are using painting class as a form of therapy.

If after going through the calendar of events for the month and asking questions of the community, you still come up dry, it’s time to take a look at current events and what is happening locally that is of interest.

There may be a well-known member of the town that was in an accident and your senior living community can organize and host a fundraiser event to help pay for medical costs. Maybe the local paper is currently focused on education toward the end of the school year, and you can easily pitch a story on how learning never stops, and what your residents are doing to expand their knowledge. Figuring out what type of story will interest the media takes me back to college and my first PR class where we learned about news values. You can know if your story is appealing and appropriate by asking yourself these questions: Is this story new and current? How many people would be affected by this story? Is it local? Were famous people or people of high prominence in the community involved? Does this story appeal to human emotions?

If your story idea gets a yes from these questions, then you know you have a keeper. But maybe you got a no to a few of them. My advice would be to find ways to add value and an attention-grabbing element. For example, in addition to hosting a Fourth of July party with refreshments, honor your veterans with a slideshow or invite the community to a candlelight ceremony to remember those they lost in war.

Don’t forget that your residents themselves make great stories. Talk to your residents and get to know them. Not only will this build great camaraderie in your community, but you will find story ideas you never would have thought of. Whether your community has a veteran, the first female sheriff in Texas, or the first African American student accepted into a particular college, your residents have their own personal stories that are newsworthy.

To find a great story it’s important to always be thinking and asking questions.  Story crafting can take a weak story and make it a good story.  And it can take a strong story and make it a great story.  Your creativity is the added value in the equation!

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