Media Hooks and Framing

May 26, 2009

Points to remember when framing your story:

Frame for maximum impact: Why is your story so important that it will compete with all the other news for the reporter’s attention? You must frame the story to capture the reporter’s interest.

Frame for the widest reach and drama: How many people will be affected; what is the controversy is in terms of political or cultural policy and conflicts; and how wide is the reach of the story? Our issues always have a broad scope, but they need to be framed in a way that makes readers feel they have a direct connection with the issue. Tuberculosis as a global threat is more relevant to readers than TB as a disease in far-off Africa.

Define the issues and the players: Whoever defines the debate controls it. Keep your eyes on the prize and move your frame, not the frame of your opponents.

Target your audience and frame the story appropriately: How you frame a story for your local business reporter will be different from how you frame an issue for the lifestyle or political desks. How you frame for Oprah is different from how you would frame for The Wall Street Journal. When possible, customize your frame to fit the picture!


Potential news hooks:

Controversy sells stories: Frame the controversy to put the opposition on the defense.

Dramatic human interest: Include the stories of real people and their triumphs, tragedies, adventures and anecdotes.

Trends: These are stories that suggest new opinions, behavior patterns and attitudes. Three is a trend; find at least 3 examples to assert that a new trend is emerging.

New announcement: Using words like “Unprecedented”, “groundbreaking” or “first-ever”. Reporters are only interested in new news, not old news. Make your news fresh.

Localize national story: (and vice versa). Take a nationally breaking story and emphasize its local impact.

Anniversaries/Milestones: One year later, one decade later.

Fresh angle on old story: Take an old story and put a fresh twist on it.

Profiles and personnel: This may feature individuals, community leaders, or galvanizing spokespersons who may become news themselves because of their fascinating stories.

Special event: Frame your issue around a conference, rally or gathering. Frame the event to capture the issue and importance.

Respond and react: Be on the lookout to respond and react to news others have made, with letters, op-eds, columns or editorials.

Celebrity: If you have a celebrity on your side, make sure they are included in the story.

Strange bedfellows: Have unlikely allies come together in solidarity over your issue? Highlight it in your story.

Timelines/calendar: Captures something coming up on the calendar. “Back to school” can be a hook for universal primary education. Mother’s Day can be a hook for malaria, which kills pregnant women and newborns.

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