This guide, written in collaboration with user needs evangelist Dmitry Shishkin, is part of a series on writing news stories based on the news needs approach. These six different editorial treatments of a news event, focusing on other details of the story besides the cold, hard facts, can offer more value to the reader. This has been proven on many occasions in various settings. The ultimate goal of the user needs approach is to connect to the audience in a stronger, more meaningful way - creating more engagement and loyalty in the process and increasing the relevance of your brand.

New to the user needs?

In this part, we talk about the user need called 'Inspire me', sharing useful formats, writing tips and - critically - when to use this approach. Ready? Let’s dive in...

The user need 'Inspire me'

These articles are meant to leave you with a good feeling - of hope, of inspiration or just the idea that there is still good in the world. The 'Inspire me' piece is often a long-form, first person account about a person who has overcome something difficult and persevered, and triumphed even though the odds may have been against them. These stories show you that there's more possible than you'd think - if they can do it, then maybe you can do it too - or that there are still people fighting the good fight.

In solutions journalism, the 'Inspire me' need allows journalists to - as the name suggests - lead with a solution to a problem instead of reporting on that problem. It’s an approach that subverts the standard way news is reported and published - and as well as being refreshing, when done right should boost engagement in the subject both within the news publication itself, and hopefully in the wider world too.

‘Inspire me’ stories help audiences think more about their social responsibility, or make them feel proud of or for other people.

an uplifting story about the world can be really useful

Why should you write 'Inspire me' pieces?

'Inspire me' is absolutely necessary if you want to connect to younger audiences. Time and again research has shown that younger people find it hard to connect with legacy or establishment media because they think that leading with problems all the time gets a bit… well, a bit depressing, frankly. It’s entirely possible to frame at least some news stories so that it leads with something positive and proactive - an uplifting story about the world can be really useful. At its core, the 'Inspire me' user need is all about problem solving. Mind you, it's not about glossing over or sugarcoating a problem. Describe the problem and be honest about it, sure, but make sure you illustrate how there is still some goodness in it too. This works particularly well with a first-person account or a protagonist sharing their tips on how to solve something.

When to write an 'Inspire me' story

If your goal is to reach a younger demographic, 'Inspire me' is a valuable user need for you to explore. Also, when a topic is especially bleak, it's probably good to highlight some positive aspects of it. If the news is about a specific person achieving something, a background piece or interview could be fitting as well. Check the comments on your articles; are people really sad or disappointed? It may be a good opportunity to show some positivity in a follow-up piece.

ready, set, go

Getting started with an 'Inspire me' story

Start by asking these questions:

  • Who is this news about? Where are they from, is there anything they have overcome?
  • If the news is really bad, is there something you can create to put the event in perspective or a solution that’s worth devoting column inches to? Is there a person who has actually made a difference here?
  • What role can the reader play in all this? What contribution, however small, can they make?
  • Are there any proven solutions and evidence of this?

Next, choose a perspective, do the research and start writing!

Useful formats for an 'Inspire me' piece

For a personal success story, the most typical format for an 'Inspire me' piece is a ‘first-person’ feature or a historical story, with lots of personal photographs and details.

If it's solutions journalism, useful formats could be a Q&A or interview with someone, a longread, or an evidence-packed listicle.

A good 'Inspire me' headline

A good headline indicates to the reader what kind of story they'll find. Is it a personal success story or a solution story? For this user need, it can be something like "How X overcame Y to become Z", "Solving X: the first evidence", "You can contribute too; it's not too late to stop X".

Great examples of 'Inspire me' pieces

Dmitry's Pro tip

"Always remember that any type of inequality could become a useful base for an ‘Inspire me’ story. Go beyond what has happened and tell stories of people affected by a story, but never through a newsy angle. If you are a local or a regional player, then stories about notable citizens doing interesting things in the past (and that are still relevant in the present) is a good option, too."