Teasing Actionable Components in ‘How To’ Stories

By Graeme Newell Comment

Good actionable information is a big part of most newscasts. Health and consumer stories are usually packed with specific tips that viewers can use to improve their daily lives. Problem is, many “how to” stories never really provide the viewer with truly actionable information. We tell viewers about that new breakthrough product to cure acne, but never empower them to actually use it. Too often the focus is on the medical procedure, as opposed to the viewer’s clearer complexion.

When teasing a “how to” story, I encourage you to find the “core motive.” The core motive is the true motivation behind a “how to” story. For example, the core motive behind a back-to-school shopping story would be “save me money.” A story about a new lawn fertilizer is not about grass. The core motive is “make the neighbors jealous.” The core motive taps into the most important priorities in our viewer’s lives: their families, houses, cars, health, appearance, etc. Every day we all spend hours making sure these vitally important things receive the care and attention they need. The goal of the core motive is to give viewers specific information that empowers them to improve their lives. It taps into the very best stuff that TV news has to offer –information that empowers people to accomplish more and better living.

Keep in mind this technique will not work with general information stories like crime, government, and breaking news. This technique is exclusively for “how to” stories.

The core motive is usually three words and starts with a verb. For example:

Save me time

Improve my health

Protect my family

Get me a raise

The promised information should empower viewers to TAKE ACTION. Your tease should do more than just describe the story. It should promise a solution. If you have fulfilled the core motive, you will explicitly tell the viewer how you will help them take action. It is an instruction manual for living better.

For example, it is not enough to say, “We’ll tell you about a new drug that cures baldness.” Both the story and the promo should promise to help viewers evaluate or obtain this drug. “We’ll tell you how much it costs, what questions to ask your doctor, and where the new drug is sold.”

Another example, “Find out about new construction delays as major renovation starts on interstate four.” This story is not about roads or construction, it’s about my commute. The tease should avoid mentioning paving, detours and planning. The core motive is “save me time and frustration.” If you have done your job right, your story will empower me to take some sort of action and save time on my drive into work. So the tease would be “we’ll show you the best ways to avoid this madness and get to work faster.” You will notice that the tease has fully fulfilled the core motive promise of “save me time and frustration.”

We are empowering our viewers to help themselves with specific information. Remember that “how to” stories should do just that. They should empower the viewer to take action. Make sure your story makes the final push across the goal line. Use your teases to promise the actionable information viewers will use to improve their lives.

Graeme Newell is a broadcast and web marketing specialist who serves as the president and founder of 602 communications. You can reach Graeme at gnewell@602communications.com.