Nobody likes being the bearer of bad news, but sometimes that’s part of the job—for journalists and for content marketers. After all, knowledge is power, and being informed is empowering. But it can also be depressing. Between the political mean tweets, all-too-frequent mass shootings, apocalyptic climate predictions, and other dire news we read about every day, the constant barrage of bad news can feel disempowering.
Yet, the best marketers understand that they can make a positive impact on the lives of the people who interact with their brands by creating content that facilitates a meaningful customer experience. Marketing content that is both uplifting and inspirational has been shown to foster brand loyalty and build long-term emotional connections with consumers.
So when times look tough, perhaps a more positive marketing strategy is in order?
Search trends certainly suggest that audiences are seeking out good news. More searches included the word “good” in 2018 than ever before, according to Google’s annual Year in Search. People looked up everything from “how to be a good dancer,” to “good things in the world,” to simply “good news.”
Media outlets and brand marketers are noticing the widening good-news gap, and now they’re rushing to fill it by curating stories about people and organizations that are making a positive difference in the world.
As audiences increasingly seek out good news, inspirational stories that might have once been reserved for slow nights on local news channels are now getting traction and driving traffic. Many major news outlets—including CNN, Fox News, and the Huffington Post have dedicated sections of their websites to feel-good stories about everyday heroes, random acts of kindness, and communities coming together. There are even some media outlets dedicated exclusively to happy stories, including Good News Network, UpWorthy, and Good.Is.
The Guardian, however, is taking a more sophisticated and arguably more compelling approach. Rather than curating “fluff pieces,” the U.K.-based newspaper is publishing hard-hitting good news for its new series, The Upside. Before launching The Upside earlier this year, The Guardian did an 18-month pilot program testing the waters for “solutions journalism” or “positive journalism.” The newspaper published 150 stories about “everything from dog turds to ketamine, the blockchain to microhouses, and gardening to exoskeletons.”
Not only did these stories illicit positive reader feedback, but they also proved to be highly shareable. Almost one in ten readers shared the content on social media. And when The Guardian asked readers for story ideas, they got more than one thousand responses from more than two dozen countries.
Of course, The Guardian still publishes plenty of bad news. As editor Mark Rice-Oxley put it, “This does not mean we will reduce our efforts to uncover wrongdoing, to hold the powerful to account. It does mean that, in addition, we will be looking for pioneers, trailblazers, best practice, unsung heroes, ideas that work, ideas that might, innovations whose time might have come.”
Image attribution: Parker Gibbons
That’s the first important takeaway for brands—not to be overly positive (which can come across as shallow or insincere), but to add some positivity into the mix. The second takeaway? Treat the good news just as seriously as the bad.
“There are some ground rules,” Rice-Oxley explained. “We won’t jump at every piece of puff and PR that comes our way. We will set a high bar, looking for things that appear replicable, robust and confront the big challenges of our times—the environment, health (particularly mental), atomized communities, flagging democracy, gender discrimination, and technology.”
In other words, The Guardian is looking for good news with meat. And that’s news worth sharing.
Journalists aren’t the only ones looking to bridge the good-news gap. Google is tackling the problem too. While “good” was not the most searched term in 2018, the word’s upward trend was enough for Google to make it the subject of their annual Year in Search video.
Google has also launched a new experimental feature set for Google Assistant that lets users say, “Hey Google, tell me something good,” to hear stories about people making a positive difference in the world. In response, Google will summarize a positive news story—for example, how Georgia State University doubled its graduation rate and eliminated racial achievement gaps using a combination of data and empathy, how backyard beekeepers in East Detroit are creating jobs while saving bees, and how Iceland curbed teen drinking using curfews and coupons.
The stories come from a wide range of media outlets, and have been curated and summarized by the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to highlighting how problems are solvable and how (despite the proliferation of bad news) things really are getting better.
By giving people a daily dose of good news, Google is giving them a little hope, a reason to smile, and a more realistic perspective of the world, which is certainly not all good. But it’s not all bad either. Reminding audiences of that is a great way to keep them coming back for more.
Hearing good news might make people feel motivated, but does it motivate them to buy? In other words, what is the value of inspirational content marketing?
For brands like Eastern Bank, Prudential, and Neal Brothers Foods, telling stories about good news, good people, and good deeds is a way to earn trust and customer loyalty. It’s not about making people buy; it’s about making people feel connected, to the brand and to the world around them.
Eastern Bank, for example, has built its brand around the idea of doing good. Each year, the company gives ten percent of its annual net income to local charities, and Eastern Bank employees volunteer tens of thousands of hours, often on company time. However, these stories are just a small part of Eastern Bank’s Join Us for Good microsite. The brand dedicates most of its inspirational content marketing to telling stories about local businesses, organizations, and individuals who are solving local problems, fighting for social justice, or simply helping other people.
Prudential also shines a spotlight on goodness in its podcast, Everyday Bravery. Now in its second season, the show is hosted by journalist Laura Ling and tells the stories of “unsung heroes facing difficulties, and the mentors that help them find the courage to overcome.”
Brands don’t have to employ large marketing teams to earn some goodwill with good news. Neal Brothers Foods, a family-owned Canadian snack company, launched its first-ever marketing campaign this year to celebrate their thirtieth anniversary. For “30 Acts of Goodness,” Neal Brothers hosted community events to support local charities, and shared those stories online. They also created a cookbook sharing recipes and stories from “thirty-seven good food fighters from across Canada—chefs, entrepreneurs, growers, and food activists who believe that good, healthy food should be accessible to all.”
These are just a few examples of brands that are finding innovative ways to weave good news into their storytelling. For them, a positive marketing strategy is a long-term investment. The good news? Given the current need for optimism, the investment will likely pay off.
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Featured image attribution: Priscilla Du Preez