Because you have gathered hundreds of pages of valuable memories, the temptation will be to include it all. However, consider the cost of publishing (which is based on book length) and what book length your readers prefer. A good target would be 60,000 to 80,000 words. Be assured that having a word limit can only be a good thing because it will help you choose only the most significant aspects and key interviewee accounts.
At a Team Meeting after at least six interviews are completed and documented, develop a loose chronology of a community timeline, updated map of hubs, landmark events, challenges, and any names recurring in the interviews. Note commonalities or patterns that may become themes. It is important to allow the data and not personal interests to drive this process. Give out assignments and set your next Team Meeting.
Schedule one to three interviews for each interviewer over a several-week time period. In a few weeks, you will know much more than you did when you started this project! The objective should be to conduct the interviews — being open to what may emerge — and complete all documentation of them in time for an Initial Interview Follow-up Meeting (whether for a team or just you!), which you should also schedule.
Might some stakeholders have competing interests in this project? What are their goals? Look for ways to build bridges among individuals or groups with disparate interests or ways of doing things. Could you collaborate towards a shared goal? Is there an umbrella organization that is trying to do on a grand scale what you are trying to do on a smaller scale? How might this become a win-win situation?
Now that you have the idea to write your community story, you may be in a rush to start. Yet you have limited time, energy, and funds. This is all the more reason to create a sustainable project that attracts support, energizes the community, and gets done. Start with setting your intention. Try borrowing our strategy: Say what you want to do in just six words. Got them? Congratulations!
Don’t ever bluff. If you don’t know the answer to a question, be honest and say so. Then offer to get back to the reporter later with the answer or suggest someone else in your company or organization they might call. Better yet, offer to ask that person to call the reporter.
Alcohol will not relax you, in fact it dulls the edge you need to carry on a good interview. Too much coffee gives you the jitters, which you’re likely to feel as stage fright. Even in small amounts, alcohol, coffee and tea have an astringent effect on your mouth tissue. A dry mouth is a handicap and a distraction that you don’t want to experience.
Expand on your three-sentence-or-less message. Explain a little of the background on your story. Use colorful words and examples. Think in terms of the news “hook.” Why should the reporter want to cover your story? Your message is a product and you have to sell it to the reporter if you want to get coverage.
Always make sure your facts are correct. Mistakes can be damaging, both with the story outcome and to your credibility. When you can, cite statistics, studies or outside experts who support your position. These will all increase your credibility, but make sure they’re accurate. You want to be viewed as a reliable source in the future.
Define your audience. Do you want to reach the general public or a smaller segment like retired people, parents, business owners, an ethnic community, or young people? The audience you’re trying to reach will determine which news outlets you should approach. It will also determine which individual reporters you should contact.