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The Rise of Good News Journalism

Let’s face it: until Team GB started winning a slew of golds in Rio, the news has been a bit depressing for much of the year. Whether it’s political upheaval, terrorist attacks, or crime, it’s been rare to switch on the TV or radio and hear a good news story.

Although the focus on bad news is well intentioned, stemming from a commitment by the media to be society’s watchdog, research shows that we are getting fed up with media negativity, and a growing number of us are turning to online publications such as Huffington Post for some light relief. And the proof is in the numbers. In 2012, Huffington Post launched its Good News section, which focuses on fun, shareable videos and features posts with constructive advice or inspirational stories. In the last year, traffic to the site has increased by 85%, and notably, the Good News articles are getting twice the social referrals of other Huffington Post content.

There are a number of other dedicated good-news-only sites, such as Positive News, with a 25,000-circulation quarterly print publication in the UK, the Good News Network, Happy News and Upworthy. Although not focusing purely on positive stories, these publications balance the hard-hitting news with fun, shareable stories.

Time are a-changing

To counter bad-news fatigue, a growing number of mainstream publications including the Mail and the BBC are following in the footsteps of Huffington Post and featuring more good news stories. And this summer, The Guardian became the latest publication to join them.

In June, it launched its Half Full series, which focuses on constructive stories, innovations and people who are trying to make a difference. The paper took the decision to add the feature as a result of a reader survey in which a significant number of people called for more good news stories.

What does the trend mean for PR?

This is great news for PR, as good news is inherently more memorable and shareable than bad. And when a brand shares an optimistic message, it often inspires more action than a negative message.

One brand to capitalise on the positive message trend was the New Forest National Park Authority. The brand recently ran a PR campaign encouraging visitors to take a break from the modern world and enjoy a family day out in the wilderness, leaving their car keys, tablets and smart phones at their Tech Crèche while they explored.

The positivity of the ‘connected families’ message generated a strong response, attracting 15 national and 51 regional pieces of coverage, including interviews on BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio Five Live. The campaign also helped reduce car traffic by nearly 15% year-on-year.

This positive approach can be particularly beneficial to charities. For example, UK charity Living Streets ran a PR campaign for National Walking Month to encourage people to get more exercise. Their #Try20 campaign attempted to reinforce the government’s recommendation to carry out 150 minutes of exercise per week, which roughly breaks down to 20 minutes per day, in a simple, memorable message. They used various positive PR tactics to encourage people to walk more, including ‘how-to’ tips, inspiring case studies and diary-style progress blogs.

From a PR point of view, the charity focused on working with positive national publications such as Huffington Post and the Guardian as well as Elle, Red and Woman’s Own, to communicate its message. And the approach worked. Some 7,200 people signed up to the supporter base and committed to #Try20, representing more than a fivefold increase on the previous year.

The key to success

The takeaway here is that hinging your campaign on a positive message can do wonders for your brand. Headlines that include words like ‘good’ or ‘happy’ are likely to reach more eyeballs and result in more social shares. And any brand that can take us away, even for a moment, from the constant stream of parliamentary sackings, economic worries and awful tragedies, has got to be on to a winner.

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