Building a story offline and online

August 4, 2009

I spent a fair few hours today taking “story-lines” and hooks that have been developed for media work by someone else and seeing if I could build an online approach based on these same ideas.

Result in a nutshell? To some extent yes: what works for journalists can work for online audiences. Makes sense, as journalists are looking to write stories that attract the same people we’re looking to reach online.

There are some differences though:

  • What will resonate with online audiences or might go viral is much broader than what could work with the press. Again, makes sense. There’s not that much actual space in traditional media and journalists have editorial guidelines and so on. Online, there’s millions of people out there and the publication space is endless. So whereas with the press you need a certain type of story and quality to get them interested, all sorts of other things will work with a global online audience, from a one-line joke on Twitter, a comment on someone else’s blog, to a video on YouTube etc etc.
  • The scope of what you can get your target to do is far broader. With media relations you’re trying to get your target – the journalist – to print a story. What happens after that is a bonus. Online, there’s getting someone to reproduce or forward your story, so the same sort of thing, but on top of that you can get them to do lots of other things, be it vote, comment, mobilise or participate in whatever other way you can dream up.
  • At the same time, you need to be a little more careful. Send a journalist a bad pitch and it’s binned. Put something rubbish or inaccurate online and the magic of cut-and-paste and instant publication might mean it does the rounds globally before you get up the next morning.
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