3 ways to uncover great stories within your organization

Thinking like a journalist and a historian while running your communications department like a newsroom can help you mine gems.

Facebook. Instagram. Your company blog. Brand journalism sites. Twitter. The list of communications channels seems never ending, and for those of us tasked with creating compelling content, it can be a challenge to identify stories to fill the various outlets.

The good news is the burden doesn’t have to fall solely on the communications department. With a little guidance, you can turn employees from various departments into content creators for your organization.

Below are three tips to help your team members identify the untold stories within your company:

1. Think like a reporter. Quick, think about a news story that stood out to you. Now break down that story to figure out what made it memorable. Maybe you’re thinking of a story that brought you to tears. Maybe a local groundbreaking event stands out. By understanding some basic news principles and encouraging fellow team members to do the same, potential stories will become much more recognizable.

A few principles to keep in mind:

  • Novelty. People love to hear about the offbeat. It’s not enough that your company is hosting a food drive. If you can tell the story about how a team of employees constructed a maze out of cereal boxes—and show it—then you have yourself a story. Be on the lookout for the quirkiness residing at your company. That’s often what people want to hear about the most.
  • Relevance. Can your readers or followers use the information you’re sharing? For example, if your company is based in Dallas with a largely local following, it makes sense to highlight stories that have an impact on the local community. For example, sharing a funny story about one employee’s obsession with the Dallas Cowboys as football season kicks off is relevant. Sharing a story on an employee’s obsession with the New York Giants is not. Again, know your audience.
  • Human interest. Sometimes the most compelling stories are found in the employees themselves. Does your organization have that one employee who is always going above and beyond to help out fellow colleagues? Highlight that person. What about employees who may be reaching important milestones in their lives, either personally or professionally? By revealing the characters at your organization, you’re giving people a peek into your company’s inner workings and creating a connection that followers crave.

2. Explore your company’s past. Got a picture from a company event decades ago? Don’t write it off as old news. Instead, use old photos to participate in social media posting trends such as “Throwback Thursday.”

What about the anniversary of your company’s founding? Take the opportunity to tell the story of how your company began, making sure to weave in interesting details that will stick with readers. Anecdotes that rouse emotions within readers will have a greater impact.

Another idea: As you come across lesser-known facts about your company, why not share them with your followers? Ask your followers to guess the year that an important milestone occurred, with the winner receiving a small prize. It’s a simple way to engage with your readers while also sharing your company’s history.

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3. Assign team members a “beat.” In a typical newsroom, reporters are assigned to different beats, such as health care, crime or business. By applying this idea to your own organization, you’ll guide team members as to what subjects they should be on the lookout for. This is also a great opportunity for “beat writers” to get to know employees in the areas they cover. More often than not, they will be calling with a story idea or two.

For example, someone could be assigned to culture, responsible for uncovering examples of how employees have demonstrated the company’s shared values and practices. Someone else could be responsible for industry news, keeping an eye out for what is happening in the organization’s field and how it affects their consumers. Another person may be in charge of history, alerting other team members if an anniversary of an important day from the company’s past is approaching.

Once the beats are established, schedule regular meetings so that team members have a chance to update everyone on what is going on in their particular beat and brainstorm how to best package the information for your followers.

Posting regularly to your various communications channels is essential, but keep in mind that it’s also about the quality of your posts. You’ll be much more likely to gain a loyal following if your audience knows they can get engaging information from you once a week rather than needless news every day.

Now a communications manager for Dallas-based Oncor, Connie Piloto previously spent 13 years as an award-winning journalist in North Texas and her native South Florida. She worked at The Miami Herald, The Palm Beach Post and The Dallas Morning News before joining the PR world.

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