Arguably the two most important words in news are ‘human interest’. By that journalists mean: how can a news story be brought alive so that it resonates with an average member of the public?
One of the main ways of introducing ‘human interest’ in an interview is to give examples or case studies that illustrate the topic under discussion.
Too often, spokespeople forget about this crucial dimension of news when giving interviews. Instead of talking to the readers, viewers and listeners whom they should be addressing, they speak to their own kith and kin – colleagues or peers who share the same ‘in-house’ language and who don’t need to have the details of issues spelt out to them—they know them already.
If, for example, you work for a pharmaceutical company producing a life-changing or life-saving drug, you wouldn’t turn up at meetings with colleagues and start giving examples of the kind of patients who would benefit from the treatment. They know that already.
The public, however, don’t sit in on such meetings and therefore need to be told. Giving examples of people who have benefited from the drug, and explaining how that person’s way of life or general well-being have been turned around, brings home the full impact that the treatment can have. Why? Because the reader, listener or viewer can identify with the person you are talking about. They don’t want to hear a load of medical mumbo-jumbo. People pay attention to information about ‘people’ before ‘things’.
Let’s say your company is sponsoring an aid project in Africa, aimed at improving schooling for thousands of children. You are the company’s representative on the ground in that country. A news channel decides to interview you.
Firstly, don’t start droning on about “infrastructure projects” or “capacity building”. Phrases like this do absolutely nothing to convey to the public what your project is all about. Use ‘real’ words like “new classrooms”, “more books”, “uniforms for schoolchildren” and “employing more teachers”. These are words to which your audience can relate.
Secondly, tell a story about one schoolchild that brings home the importance of what you are doing. Don’t speak about the “thousands of children” being helped or how you are “enhancing the education system”. Perhaps recount one conversation you’ve had with one child in one school in one village in that country in Africa where your project is based. Give that child a name, age and a little background. Describe what their classroom is like and what the child said to you about how their school life changed because of your project. The viewer watching that interview then forms a picture in their own mind of exactly what your programme is achieving on the ground.
The topic is no longer vague, remote or shrouded in language and phraseology that they cannot understand.
In other words, you need to take your audience with you in interviews and ‘human interest’ examples are the best way of doing so.