This summer, The Guardian has become the latest publication to focus on news with a ‘positive’ spin, joining the likes of Huffington Post and the short-lived New Day, as well as Upworthy and Positive News. PR agencies Bottle, Polygon PR and PHA Media discuss how they have used the trend to get a boost for their clients and highlight the benefits of news with a happy ending.
In June, The Guardian launched its Half Full series, which focuses on ‘constructive stories, innovations and people trying to make a difference’. The title states that the decision was taken as a result of a reader survey in which ‘significant numbers’ called for more good news stories on the agenda.
As well as looking for ‘good news’, readers are also responding positively to the trend. Jessica Prois, executive editor of Huffington Post’s Good News site told the Guardian on Monday (1 August) that a ‘good news’ piece is twice as likely to be shared than the average HuffPost article.
This has spurred journalists to look for the ‘positive’ angle more frequently. Bottle’s head of editorial, Nina Sawetz, tells Gorkana: “Our work with AXA PPP healthcare can take us into some pretty grim stats and figures sometimes, especially as our campaigns centre on mental health and cancer. However, we’ve lost count of the number of times a journalist has asked for a case study with a ‘happy ending’.
“Even ten years ago, we wouldn’t have considered that a positive case study would have interested anyone, but now we’re struggling to place case studies we once thought were impactful due to their upsetting nature,” she adds.
PRs are not only seeing a change in attitude to how journalists approach news, but they are also benefiting from it.
Positivity gains more influence
Polygon PR’s creative director and founder, Mark Southern, tells Gorkana that the desire for more positive news is on the rise across audiences of all ages and when a brand or charity shares a highly optimistic message, it can inspire more action than negative news.
This was proven in the agency’s work with the New Forest Park Authority, which aimed to reduce the number of cars in the region to bring down levels of environmental damage. Southern explains: “We created the world’s first ‘Tech Creche’, which was designed to inspire families to leave their distracting tech under ‘lock and key’ for the day, and take public transport instead.”
The general positivity of the ‘connected families’ message generated a strong response from media, with 15 national and 51 regional pieces of coverage, including interviews on BBC Radio 2 and Five Live. The campaign also helped to reduce car traffic by nearly 15% year-on-year.
“It’s worth noting that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a happy story, but it can include charities finding a positive take-away message from something distressing. The key is to spread hope,” explained Southern.
A positive message can open opportunities with different outlets
PHA Media’s account executive for campaign and causes, Heather McLeod, says that a ‘positive’ campaign has the added benefit as it opens up the opportunity to disseminate information both in and out of traditional media and through social channels, blogs and company websites – which isn’t always the case with negative news stories.
The agency recently worked with the UK charity Living Streets on a campaign for National Walking Month to promote health and well-being. McLeod says: “We used various positive PR tactics to encourage people to walk more including ‘how to’ tips, inspiring case study stories and diary-style progress blogs, all of which inspired behaviour change amongst our target audience and took a constructive and actionable stance.”
PHA also worked with national publications such as Huffington Post and the Guardian as well as Elle, Red and Woman’s Own, to communicate the message.
The key to success for positive campaigns, such as those by Polygon and PHA, is that they are more memorable, according to Sawetz. She says: “There’s a reason the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge gained more awareness than anything the charity had tried before – it made people smile.
“Any brand that can take us away, even for a moment, from the constant drum beat of attacks, parliamentary sackings and health worries, has got to be on to a winner.”