Every day is powerful: Choosing universal moments over the sensational



Breaking news is a ubiquitous term that carries a promise and holds a lot of emotional charge.

Does your chest tighten? Curiosity piqued? Do you feel compelled to click, read, watch, or listen?

New York Post

If so, you’ve experienced the power of adrenaline and dopamine—neurotransmitters released when brains encounter the sensational promise of clickbait.  

But for organizations trying to change the world, they are looking for more than clicks. 

They are aiming to generate communication outputs that spark a meaningful and profound impact. The goal is to not only harness the audience’s attention but to compel and inspire them to take action.

So, how can they do that without relying on overly dramatic stories or headlines?

The key is in revealing the power of everyday moments

Quiet, subtle, common, and even mundane day-to-day activities may not be what makes headlines, but they do hold a special power – the truth. Depictions of universal moments connect people, cutting through the noise and breaking down biases. 

Compare the above “Breaking News” about people trying to get to the US, with the below photo of Honduran asylum-seekers waiting for their cases to be heard at a makeshift encampment near a U.S. port of entry:

Photo Loren Elliott / Reuters file | Matamoros, Mexico |  Aug. 24, 2019.

Though this quiet moment does not portray the facts and figures of the crisis, it does portray the human reality of it.  The waiting. The boredom. The perseverance. The universal desire of wanting a better, safe future for your children. 

Reflect on the difference in how you feel while engaging with this photo versus the headline above — do you feel the same twinge of anxious curiosity, a connection with the parents, or a deeper sense of compassion? Perhaps even a desire to help?

When people read or watch an international crisis or a politician delivering a speech at a rally—it feels distant, almost cinematic. The story feels disassociated from your day-to-day life, and it makes it hard to conjure a genuine empathy for the subject matter. Take, as a counterexample, this photo of Yazidi women preparing dinner in a refugee camp near Dohuk, Iraq: 

Photo: Tara Todras-Whitehill  | Qadiya Refugee Camp, Iraq, 2014

Although you may not know what it is like to be a refugee or live in an active warzone, you almost certainly can connect to the rituals involved in preparing a meal. Maybe this image conjures the smell of fresh bread, or you can relate to the pre-dinner conversation filling the twilight. 

These universal moments highlight humanity itself. It is a reminder that there is so much that can connect us rather than separates us. 

The uplifting of humanity and empathy is what you want to invoke in your audience. When you successfully depict the universality of the human experience, it drives people to take action, causing ripples that change the world.

Unsure of how you can drive change with your stories? Get in touch and we can brainstorm about your work.

Tags: photography, visual storytelling tips, visualstorytelling

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