The Value of Grassroots Storytelling

As the liaison between our clients and the media, we face a difficult task as public relations professionals: We must balance our clients’ priorities with what the media will find newsworthy.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the big picture success stories of the brands we work with, such as how much they’re growing, who makes up their leadership teams, brand-wide achievements, etc. But from the media’s perspective, we need to make sure we do not lose sight of answering the most important
question they will have: “Why should anyone care?”

The power of human interest

The stories we pitch on our clients’ behalf need to address at least one, if not many, of the key elements that make a story newsworthy from a media perspective. One of the most powerful of these key elements is human interest, otherwise known as “the aspect of a story in the media that interests people because it describes the experiences or emotions of individuals.”

As a PR agency that specializes in franchise development, we are fortunate that the brands we represent give us access to a plethora of human interest stories, thanks to the many franchisees that make up these brands. Recently, we hit the human interest jackpot in the form of a 9Round franchisee based right in the DFW area…

From stroke survivor to gym owner…

Last September, client 9Round approached us with an interesting update: They had just finalized an agreement with a new franchisee in Coppell, Texas, who just so happened to be a stroke survivor. Once we connected with the franchisee, Robert Martinez, and learned how inspirational his story was, we knew this had “human interest” media opportunity written all over it.

For months, we worked on coordinating features with local DFW media outlets to highlight Robert and his new 9Round franchise. Our efforts resulted first in an online feature from the Coppell Gazette, which ran prior to Robert’s grand opening in February and gave him some advance promotion.

Come May, it was National Stroke Awareness Month, a.k.a. the perfect time for WFAA-TV, the Dallas ABC affiliate, to run a feature segment on Robert and his latest endeavor of gym ownership. Emmy award-winning reporter Sonia Azad and her videographer visited Robert in his Coppell studio, collecting hours of footage that would be incorporated into a spotlight feature all about Robert and his journey.

Bring out the tissues!

When the story aired on May 16 on the 10 o’clock news, we were in awe. Sonia told Robert’s story beautifully by giving an exclusive look into the leaps and bounds he has made since that fateful day when he suffered his stroke at just 33 years old. You can watch the full segment HERE, but we will warn you: It’s a bit of a tear-jerker!

Of course, the attention this brought to Robert’s new studio was huge. Given WFAA’s status as a leading news source for one of the largest designated market areas in the country, potential viewership of the feature when it aired far exceeded 100,000. And that doesn’t even include days of advance promotions about the story on local radio. Meanwhile, with the feature now available on WFAA’s website, these numbers will continue to rise alongside 2,124,739 unique visitors each month.

Leveraging a local win for brand recognition

From our perspective as the PR team behind the franchisor, we saw additional benefits from the feature that tied back to the big picture story we are constantly aiming to tell on 9Round’s behalf.

The brand’s mission is to make people “stronger in 30 minutes, both physically and mentally.” Robert’s entire journey is one of building physical and mental strength in the face of extreme adversity. When he found 9Round, he found an outlet for him to not only continue building his own strength, but to help others in his local community do the same.

Robert’s journey to 9Round franchise ownership is a full-circle story of what we want others to see in the brand, and the Dallas news feature encompassed this in a way that no amount of paid advertising can accomplish. (PR is golden!)  

And, lastly, because we prefer to never let the buzz of a good story fade completely, we intend to continue sharing this awesome feature far and wide for the exponential influence it can create. Perhaps that means national pick-up!

So, let this be a lesson. Don’t get bogged down in run-of-the-mill stories. Give some real insight into the people behind a business. Turn a news brief into an exclusive feature. Remember the value of true grassroots storytelling. And as this example showed, Robert’s story is just one out of more than 800 locations for 9Round. There are sure to be more headlines to grab across a network full of inspiration.