Questions you need to ask your colleagues to move from story lead to story development

Mar 26, 2020

Do you have colleagues who regularly bring you story ideas and leads?

“We should tell more donor stories!”
“I have a great volunteer for you to profile!”
“I met someone at our event last night that you should feature in our newsletter!”

Having colleagues who bring you story ideas is wonderful. But as a communicator, it also means more work: you have to figure out which leads to pursue and whether or not it makes sense to allocate time and resources to develop them.

Do you need help with navigating the path from potential lead to story development and publication? If so, I’ve pulled together a few questions you can ask your colleagues to explore the strategic relevance and viability of publishing any story. These questions will help you to assess leads and ideas, understand the stories, get the information and logistical details you need, and perhaps, get a little support and involvement from your peers along the way.

You have to figure out which story ideas to pursue - are they worth the time and resources you'll need to develop them? #storytelling #NPMC Click To Tweet

Initial conversation: is it the right story?

When the lead first comes in, there are a few questions you can ask to get a sense of what the story is, the angle, and whether or not it makes sense to move forward with it:

  • What’s the story about? Can you sum it up in a sentence or two?
  • What can we achieve by sharing this story?
  • What call to action might we feature alongside this story?
  • What programs, events, campaigns or other offerings can we highlight in the story?

This discussion might take just a few minutes, but it will ensure that you aren’t dumped with a name, phone number and no guidance about what to do with them. You can work on answering the questions together with your colleague, using them to guide your discussion. As you “train” your colleagues to think strategically about stories over time, you may be able to send these questions – and ask for responses – via email.

Is this conversation going well so far? Does it make sense to move forward with this story? Then you can dig a little deeper…

Over time, you can use these questions, you can 'train' your colleagues to think strategically about #storytelling. #NPMC Click To Tweet

How can this story fit into our communications mix?

To ensure that this new story is something you can leverage and build into your existing communications plans, ask the following:

  • Who is the audience for this story? Who are the intended readers?
  • Where might we use this story? For example, in our newsletter or direct mail, on our website or social media, in a printed report or video presentation – or some combination of these?
  • Is there any time sensitivity or opportunity? Thinking about editorial themes, holidays, events, announcements and campaigns, where would this story best fit into and support our editorial calendar?

As a communications pro, you might already have ideas or answers to these questions. However, by including colleagues in this part of the planning, you can glean some useful insights. It’s also an opportunity to shed light on your process – and existing content creation workload.

If these details are coming together and continue to make sense – and you’re both still excited about developing this story…

Get the details you need for story development

The next round of questions will help you get the practical information you need from your colleague so that you can write or otherwise develop the story:

  • Have you already talked to these individuals about being featured? If not, will you ask them if they are interested and willing, or should I? And if I’m doing the outreach, can you provide me with contact information?
  • If they’ve already agreed to participate, are they expecting to hear from me? Do you need to make an email introduction?
  • Do you already have existing background information that I can read and understand before asking them for details about their experience with our organization?
  • Do we already have photos or video footage that we can use? Do we need to arrange to get those?

I hope these questions help you to explore story leads and have meaningful conversations about which stories to feature, when. And consider this: if you’d l like to get away from fielding story ideas on an ad-hoc basis, then you should create a storytelling plan, with input your colleagues, so they’ll know what types of story ideas you need, when.

And if you’re ready for external help, I’ve built story planning into my story writing service. Check out the package details and get in touch with me if you’d like to learn more.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on the Charity Village website. Because it works so well with the other storytelling resources I publish on my blog, I’ve revised it and given it a second home here!

Questions you need to ask your colleagues to move from story lead to story development #NPMC #storytelling Click To Tweet

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