By Nancy Marshall, The PR Maven® 

How Genuine Interest, Curiosity and Preparation Can Help You Tell a Story

What makes a good story? We are all drawn to stories about strong characters with good personalities. We want to hear stories about people.

And for Rob Caldwell, anchor and reporter for NEWS CENTER Maine, deciding which stories to pursue and broadcast ultimately comes down to the same criteria.

Although he might receive dozens of pitches each week, Rob is always looking for the stories that appeal to a wide audience, highlight people and offer interesting insights.

On episode 225 of The PR Maven® podcast, I spoke with Rob about getting your pitch noticed, how to be a good interviewer (something I’ll admit I was nervous about sitting down with a 40+ year interview vet!) and how technology has changed the way we consume media.

How Genuine Interest, Curiosity and Preparation Can Help You Tell a Story

Pitch perfect.

For Rob, sometimes a great story falls in his lap — or rather, it’s pitched to him on the sidewalk.

“People stop me on the street pretty regularly and they have an idea or a comment or something,” says Rob. “I’m just looking for a good story. The way a shark moving through the ocean is looking for its next meal.”

Of course, he doesn’t have time in the day to cover every idea thrown his way. So, how does a seasoned vet like Rob decipher which pitches are worth listening to? It’s simple: tell him a story.

“That’s what I want to hear in a pitch or from anyone — whether it’s a pitch from a PR professional or from the person I meet on the street. What’s the story here? Why is this a story that people will want to hear?” Rob says. “A strong story with a broad appeal to general viewers, everyday folks. And good personalities also help.”

At the end of the day, people always want to hear stories about people. So, that’s what Rob looks for. Those are the stories he wants to share.

Additionally, Rob looks for the pitches that stand out.

“If you want to break through the clutter and really reach someone who’s hard to get to, send them a handwritten note,” Rob suggests.

In our fast-paced world of constant information influx, sometimes bringing back an “old-fashioned” way of connecting is just enough to catch the attention of someone as experienced as Rob.

Being a better interviewer

After Rob decides to pick up a story and share it on a broader platform, how does he present the story in a way that will captivate bigger audiences? He has to be able to unearth more of the story and aid in the storytelling. This is certainly easier said than done.

“The single most important thing is to have a genuine curiosity about whatever it is you’re talking about with the person,” Rob says. “And have a curiosity about the person too, not just the subject.”

Another crucial element to being a good interviewer is preparation. You always want to know something about the person you’re interviewing and the subject that you’re going to be talking about. Doing your homework to ensure you have some sort of baseline knowledge, particularly if the subject is not in your wheelhouse, is imperative to conducting a good interview.

“Preparation is important,” says Rob. “It’s a sign of respect to the person you’re talking to.If they can tell that you’ve done some homework, you’ve done some research, then they appreciate that. And it usually makes for a better conversation.”

Modern adjustments

With the influx of modern-day media access — social media platforms, TV news stations, print and online publications — the audience has splintered.

This is something that has affected Rob and NEWS CENTER Maine’s reach.

“We don’t have as many people watching,” says Rob. “We still have a good sized audience. We still reach a lot of people, but it’s not what it was before technology changed everything.”

In order to keep up with the changing times, NEWS CENTER Maine has a significant presence on social media and publishes news stories on their own website. It has added a new layer to Rob’s duties as an anchorman and reporter.

“Every significant story I do has to have a web story that goes with it. Well, I’ve already put a lot of time into preparing the broadcast story. And writing for broadcast is different from writing for digital,” explains Rob. “I can’t just take the story that I wrote for broadcast and put that transcript on our website. It doesn’t work. So stories have to be rewritten.”

Although it takes additional time, Rob understands the importance of keeping up with modern technology to share stories.

After all, if your pitch was good enough to get picked up, it deserves to be told on every platform — even if that might create a little more work for him.

This is based on episode 225 of The PR Maven® Podcast, a podcast hosted by Nancy Marshall. Weekly interviews feature industry leaders, top executives, media personalities and online influencers to give listeners a peek into the world of public relations, marketing and personal branding. Subscribe through Apple, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.