“We have too many meetings!”
“We don’t have enough time.”
These are a few of the reasons I hear to explain why marketing teams don’t run editorial meetings to uncover their best business stories. While these are perfectly valid excuses, the truth is this: Editorial meetings can generate terrific business storytelling ideas and they don’t have to take a lot of time, resources, or energy. What they require are people who listen and care enough to ask questions. They also require people to share the stories in an editorial meeting. So, how does this happen?
Editorial meetings are a standard part of news media operations. In television news, there are typically two editorial meetings each day — one in the morning and another in the afternoon. The sole purpose of these meetings is to generate story ideas for the newscasts that day and evening. Consequently, each person is responsible for bringing a story idea to that meeting.
How to Run an Editorial Meeting
Your editorial sessions should operate in a similar fashion. Depending on the size of your team, you may want to hold a separate, weekly editorial meeting or simply bolt it onto an existing meeting where key personnel are present. First, assign someone in the group to act as the editor-in-chief; this may be a leader or manager. This person needs to make sure every person who attends the meeting comes up with a story idea that can be used on your blog. Have each person go around the room and explain their story while the editor, or a scribe, takes notes of all the story ideas. At the end of the meeting, you’ll be surprised how many quality ideas are shared. Sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Here’s what your team needs to know about identifying quality stories for your business.
Story or a Commercial
All organizations have both stories and commercials and they’re equally important. They’re also difficult to tell apart for the untrained storyteller. During editorial meetings, remind your team that stories are always about people and they’re not about products, pricing, and value. This can be confusing, especially for those who grew up in a marketing era that was all about interruption-based marketing. Furthermore, encourage your team to avoid talking about the remarkable virtues of your organization and instead focus on the people whose lives you impact. Commercials are just that — announcements about events, sales, special offerings — and they are often confused as "stories".
Embrace conflict and tension
Most marketers like to avoid the negatives and emphasize only the positive attributes of your organization and its products and/or services. Be brave, buck the trend. What feels more authentic to you? A post that feels like a thinly veiled product promotion or a post that feels like a third-party observation? Even the question feels loaded because we know the right answer, and yet, why do marketers try to build trust by spinning only the positives? Encourage your team to find stories that have natural tension and a fantastic outcome. Often testimonials and case studies will have this dynamic.
Focus on the why
When I was a reporter, people would often come up to me and say, “I have a great story that you should cover!” And in most cases, the person didn’t have a story at all. What they had was an event that was coming up or a statistic without a real story at all. They had a “what,” not a “why.” For example, if I tell you that there is a walk for Alzheimer’s this weekend, I have told you the “what” — there’s a walk this weekend. If I tell you, Jack Smith, from our hometown, was just diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and we’re participating in a walk to support him and raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association, I’ve conveyed a “why.” Notice, there is a character and an emotional trigger that is the “why” of the story. Make sure your team uncovers the "why."
So, where do you find these stories? They’re probably all around you, every day, and you don’t even realize it. The real keepers of the stories are the people who are on the front lines of your organization. They are the people who are meeting with and servicing your customers, team members, and vendors. Tap into their network of stories, in fact, they may not even realize they know as many stories as they do. What we’ve found is that most people take their stories for granted, since the people are “just part of what we do.”
Lastly, stories come in all shapes and sizes, so create story buckets to help your team stay top of mind of the ideas that might make great stories. For example, perhaps there are stories of customer service, expertise, human interest, and news-related information. Make editorial "buckets" where these stories can be filed for future use. Remember, focus on the people and keep in mind that the best stories are not about your products and services but about the people who are touched by your products and services!