“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 interesting brand stories and they don’t have to take a lot of time, resources, or energy.
Editorial meetings are part of the time-tested process that journalists use to discuss stories. 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. Everybody knows their role, the rules, and the cadence of the editorial meetings, using the power of numbers — and multiple perspectives — to come up with the best content mix. So, how does this happen?
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.
Still unsure of the process?
Here is how we walk through it at StoryTeller. Our format is based on our own newsroom experiences. Follow the process, keep asking questions to drill down to the best stories, and then, do it again the next time. It's not easy, but running your editorial meetings the same way every time will help you identify the best stories and even encourage your team to do some research before coming back for the next one.
1. Set the stage
The leader should open the editorial meeting by identifying what's timely. This is when you discuss the regularly scheduled events and ongoing stories that you just have to cover — and remind everybody about seasonal events and stories. Think of these as conversation starters. Some should be covered on their own, others will help trigger timely ideas:
- Upcoming Events
- Business News
- Business Goals
- Marketing Goals (including any high, middle, or bottom of the funnel needs)
- Marketing Opportunities (including good keywords, and review high performing blogs)
- Upcoming Holidays and Seasonal Events
2. Brainstorm Stories and Feature Ideas
Open the floor to brainstorm ideas, but be mindful of these key rules:
- All ideas welcome
- Must be unique, useful, or interesting
3. Apply Filters
This is where you vet the ideas. Ask these questions to decide which stories are worth pursuing.
- Who will we interview?
- What will we/they say?
- Do we have enough information to write a full story?
- Where can we get more information?
- Will the story interest our personas?
- Does it fit in the top, bottom or middle of the funnel?
4. Identify Top Stories
If you do it right, you'll identify more good stories than you have time to write (or space to publish). That's a better problem than we started this blog with, right?
Use the same criteria — useful, unique, interesting — to decide which stories to prioritize. Remind your team that stories are always about people and they’re not about products, pricing, and value. Furthermore, encourage your team to avoid talking about the remarkable virtues of your organization and instead focus on the people whose lives you impact.
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? o
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.”
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!
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