How to spot your stories.​

Whoever you are and whatever you do, chances are there is an organisation you know which would benefit from some extra publicity.

That could be a business you run, a group you are a part of – from the local Brownies troupe to the pub darts team – or a cafe or shop you like to frequent.

Advertising is one way to get the word out. But another, less costly, way is to come up with a story about your local business which people will want to read – whether that’s online, in the local press, or ideally in both.

The question is, how do you spot those stories? What’s interesting and what’s not? Here are some tips to get started.

1. People like reading about people.

Think about all the people in your organisation. Talk to them about their jobs, their families, their lives, how they came to be working for you, why they do those jobs. The chances are there will be something interesting in there which will make people want to read their story.

2. Share your successes

People love reading about groups, societies, clubs and small businesses that have done well. They also love sharing those success stories on social media. At the Liverpool Echo, one of the most regular complaints from readers was that we published too many negative stories and not enough positive ones. I also ran a section called “Junior Xsport” which celebrated the achievements of young sportsmen and made a point of never publishing negative stories. People loved it.

When something good happens to your business or to anybody who is a part of it, tell people about it.

3. Practice the noble art of “finding the intro”

In theory, the intro to any story should be simple: it’s the thing you would tell your friends first when you’re telling them the story. Sometimes it’s tricky because there are lots of potential intros but choosing the best one is a nice headache to have. The key thing is that the most important fact in a story comes first. That’s how you make people read the rest of the article, blog or whatever.

4. Be nosey and always be asking

It may be dressed up as inquisitiveness but journalists are by nature nosey people and if you are going to spot a story you are going to have to be too. That means asking people on a regular basis what they’ve been doing and thinking about their answers because that leads to the final tip…

5. God is in the detail

When you’re looking for a story, you can never ask too many questions because people will initially assume you don’t want to know everything and will leave out interesting facts which could be your lead. For example, a school I worked with went on a trip to London. How did it go, I asked. Fine, came the answer, we visited the London Eye and Madame Tussaud’s, everyone had a lovely time. How was the journey? Oh yes, came the answer, it was good – and when we stopped at the services the headteacher, who is a massive Formula One fan, met Jenson Button in Starbucks and had her photo taken with him! Another teacher back at school was so jealous because she travels all around the world watching Jenson drive and wasn’t on the trip!

Straight away that’s the story. It may not be Pulitzer-prize winning material but it’s certainly more interesting than “School goes on trip to London and visits the Eye” and the picture of the headteacher with Jenson Button will make people click on it in social media who wouldn’t have done otherwise. Job done.

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