How to Heat Up Heartwarming Stories

When telling feel-good stories can enhance brand storytelling
By Lisa Arledge Powell

When we listen to the news, the stories that uplift and inspire us are the ones we are most likely to remember and share with others. Of course, content creators should always consider how pathos (our feelings or emotions) plays into the message they are delivering. Because February is American Heart Month, there’s no better time to analyze your brand’s approach to heartwarming stories. And who more fitting to talk about stories that tug at our heartstrings than media powerhouse NBC News? We interviewed Meena Duerson, the Editorial Director of TODAY Digital about the best methods for approaching feel-good storytelling. Here are her tips for how to amp up your content.

Look for Emotional Resonance

Whether you’re talking heart health or heartwarming, stories with impact should always have emotional resonance.

“People like to connect around emotional stories,” said Duerson. “We always ask, ‘what are the stories you would tell your mom at the end of the day.’ Those exciting, uplifting moments serve as a good goal to shoot for with your storytelling. When we look for stories, we’re always trying to find the light in the darkness. If there’s a hopeful angle or a tragedy that someone has come through on the other side, that’s a message you can build a story around.”

By foregrounding compassion and inspiration in your content, you can begin to craft a message that will not only appeal to a large audience, but will have a lasting impact on those you reach. This kind of storytelling encourages shared responses and looks to unite your audience around your message — a surefire way to make sure your stories get seen.

Respond to Your Audience

Of course, even feel-good stories can start to feel tired if your audience has seen them before. To avoid this, Duerson suggests innovating your content to respond to people’s changing interests.

“To make sure our content is innovative, we go in depth to give the story a unique twist,” said Duerson. “Maybe we’re interviewing someone who we haven’t heard from, maybe we’re giving a new perspective to something that’s been in the news.”

MediaSource’s client, Orlando Health, is well known for drawing on emotion to craft an uplifting message for their audience. For example, they kept the Christmas spirit alive and patched up an Elf on the Shelf after he had a run in with the family dog. By listening to your audience and giving them new details or behind-the-scenes impactful moments, you can ensure that when you pull at the heartstrings, your message isn’t only timely, it’s important.

Package Stories for Social

When you think storytelling, you have to think social media. While Instagram, Facebook and Twitter might not be the best place for, say, a 30-minute documentary, Duerson recommends “packaging” stories differently for different social platforms.

“A few years ago, we noticed that people were interested in short, uplifting text on video stories,” said Duerson. “Now, we’re noticing that people like longer features on Facebook. We originally thought that people might tune out during long videos, but for hard issues like infertility or child loss, we try to give the stories the room they need to breathe.”

Being aware of social media restrictions (i.e., shorter content or previews on Instagram and longer length limits on Facebook) can help you cater your content to the right platform.

Bring In Your Brand

Because all content should enhance your brand’s storytelling, feel-good stories are no exception. Duerson recommends building brand voice into the stories themselves through story selection.

“For heartwarming content, it’s less about crafting the perfect pitch or story and more about identifying the things that make you feel something,” said Duerson. “We make sure that we’re selecting stories with genuine emotion that we can then infuse with our own brand standards like natural, human-focused interviews and making the stories feel organic and true.”

By emphasizing story selection and then focusing on incorporating your brand’s feel and message, you can create stories that not only play an important role in your audience’s day, but are also recognizable as yours.

This heart month, do your brand a favor and focus on crafting stories that uplift and inspire. Using these techniques will ensure that your content isn’t just a passing headline, but something that resonates for your audience for days to come.