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By: Ashley Bovin
Title:

Finding the Magic to Tell Your StoriesSession: Once Upon a Time: A Guide to Storytelling

Presenters: Lindsey Groepper, President, BLASTmedia & Sabrina List, Vice President, Marketing and Communications, 500 Festival, Inc.

I was not sure what to expect from this session because as a brand new APR major, I had not yet explored storytelling in public relations. The name of the session primed me for experiencing something magical. As the presentation began with a focus on pitching to the media, I was unsure of exactly how storytelling would apply.  But then, as Lindsey and Sabrina discussed their experience with finding the stories hidden within an event, corporation, or organization, I got it: the magic is in finding the human interest element that will really capture the attention of the media and their audiences.

During the presentation, Lindsey shared the example of Elisabeth Davis’ 80-year workiversary. This story was picked up by outlets such as The Today Show, the New York Times, and Inside Edition; all because it was pitched to the media after the BLASTmedia team was touring a school campus and came upon Elisabeth. This example showed the importance of always looking for a story- even where you might least expect it.

Another example was the IPL 500 Festival Parade’s decision to go against the norm while selecting their Grand Marshals for 2015. Sabrina explained that instead of bringing in a celebrity as in previous years, organizers saw a better opportunity: to right history and honor the 1955 Crispus Attucks High School Basketball Team, who should have been celebrated for their state championship 60 years ago, when segregation made it impossible. 

Takeaways:

  1. Save the press release for what’s REALLY newsworthy. Instead, pitch good stories when you have them.
  2. Regularly converse with your stakeholders (CEOs, customer service reps, volunteers, whomever!) to get their buy-in and mine stories. Schedule meetings for this.
  3. Find a unique angle for your story and pitch, pitch, pitch.
  4. But don’t just pitch to anyone and everyone: customize your pitch for each media outlet. It’s much more effective to find 5 people who regularly write about what you’re trying to get covered than 100 random reporters. Pitch to the right people.
  5. Share your results with your stakeholders. Let them know what they helped to make happen!

Ashley Bovin is a senior majoring in Advertising and Public Relations. After struggling to find a fit in the professional world, she returned to GVSU in January 2016, determined to gain the skills and confidence needed to launch a career in communications. She looks forward to using her writing and editing skills in her future work. Besides learning and writing, Ashley enjoys drinking coffee, spending time in Grand Rapids, and hanging out with her cat, Stella.