People often tell me how lucky I am to live in the heart of the Texas Hill Country. While I do feel fortunate to spend my days in such a scenic part of our state, it’s something I usually take for granted. After all, I grew up here. The Guadalupe River was my summer swimming pool; the wooded, rocky terrain was my playground; and it was not unusual to visit a weekend craft market in small towns like Boerne, Wimberley, Gonzales or Fredericksburg long before these towns became tourist destinations.
Finding good stories is like growing up in the Hill Country. They can be easily overlooked if they’re part of the daily routine, but when shared with an outsider, these ordinary experiences could be considered extraordinary.
More times than I can count, I’ve found myself sitting across from a client brainstorming story ideas when they suddenly say, “I don’t know if reporters will find this interesting, but…” They go on to share something that seems completely routine, but when viewed through the eyes of an outsider, it’s the exact story for which we’ve been searching.
Some of my favorite instances include human interest stories. For example, while establishing a new relationship with a local construction company, we learned that it had a female intern working on one of its high-profile projects. While having an intern is certainly routine, the fact that a female was pursuing a career in a male-dominated industry made the story newsworthy. Indeed, it garnered a segment with Natalie Solis on KDFW-TV and a story with The Dallas Morning News.
Heart-warming, philanthropic efforts are also often overlooked when engaging in community activities is simply part of the company’s culture. This was the case with a local financial institution, which over the course of a week sent teams of bankers to volunteer with a teenage artist to paint a mural on a nonprofit daycare center’s wall. They directly involved the kids at the daycare center by incorporating their handprints into the artwork. The strong visual elements of these adults working with the kids to put their handprints on the wall were too tempting for several local television stations to pass up.
Engaging in new processes, especially something that no one else is doing, or taking a new approach to a standard practice, can be another missed opportunity. These types of stories are especially well-suited for trend pieces, best practice columns or thought leadership guest articles. For instance, Cooksey works with an engineering and architecture firm that engages in an innovative strategic planning process. While most companies develop a strategic plan, the final product often gets shelved and is quickly forgotten until it’s time to go through the process the following year. That’s not the case with this client. Strategic planning is a year-long process that includes identifying long-term trends and short-term objectives. It’s presented to all employees in a way that helps them understand the individual role they play in the company’s success, and provides tools for measuring their performance. This unique approach to a standard practice has generated multiple guest article opportunities in a wide range of trade publications.
In journalism and media relations, there are some commonly known rules about what makes a good story. Reporters will tell us they’re interested in anything that is new or first. Public relations professionals will add to that list anything that involves children or animals (and if you have both, it may be a lead story!). But there’s much more to a good story than the items on this list. As you’re looking for stories to tell, don’t discount the ordinary parts of your day. Think about the people you work with, the community projects you’re engaged with and the processes that you’ve recently put into place. It’s likely that somewhere in this daily routine there are a few stories that could get some media attention.