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Don’t Refer to People as Objects

One of the primary goals of teases and news stories is to create a sense of personal connection with the heroes, villains and other main characters in any daily show. Just like a prime drama or blockbuster movie, we want our characters to come alive. However, many times our writers refer to people as objects instead of real-life fascinating individuals.

Treat People Like Human Beings

Motivating viewers to care about the main characters of a story starts with the teases and continues into the package. Too many producers are so busy trying to maintain objectivity that they manage to suck all the life out of the fascinating real-life people who show up on the news every night. This often starts with the very words they use to describe these people in our stories. When they use words like “occupants,” they objectify the main characters of the drama they’re attempting to create. Who wants to hear from a “resident?” I just don’t care about these faceless individuals who are part of an indeterminate herd.

Imagine a primetime drama promo that referred to its main character as “a local policeman,” or a comedy that promoted its star as “a suburban woman.”

Be Especially Careful When Referring to Large Groups

It is hard to feel a connection with “citizens” or “a community.” If you want me to care about the people in the story, refer to them as human beings, not an amorphous crowd. It is very hard to empathize with an “occupant of a dwelling.”

Avoid: “The residents of this community.”
Better: “The families who live on this block.”
Avoid: “A Louisville woman was attacked.”
Better: “Jenny Lewis from Louisville was attacked.”

Don’t hesitate to use people’s names, particularly first names. This is especially important for stories where you want viewers to identify with the characters in a drama. “This woman’s fight with cancer” is not as connecting as “Jenny’s fight with cancer.” Where appropriate, get friendly, get personal. Just like a good novel, build a personal story around the fascinating characters in your drama. Watch for these words in your copy and turn these abstract groups into warm, flesh-and-blood people:

community
resident
citizen
public
populace
township
occupant
dwelling
inhabitant
tenant
visitor
district
locality
territory
parish
precinct
population
municipality
region
vicinity
zone
locale
society

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.

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