Finding Your Brand’s Best Stories: A Lesson From Pizza Hut

Finding Your Brand's Best StoriesThe right feel-good story can inspire readers, reflect positively on your brand, and bring customers to your pages in droves. But finding the perfect brand story and fostering its growth requires the right approach. Take a recent story from Pizza Hut, for example.

Last October, a man eating alone at Pizza Hut noticed a single mom dining with her two children. He was so moved by the mother’s parenting skills and interaction with her kids that he paid for the family’s dinner and left the mom a three-page note.

“I have watched you teach your children about the importance of respect, education, proper manners, communication, self control, and kindness all while being very patient,” the letter, signed only by “Jake,” said. “I will never cross your path again but am positive that you and your children have amazing futures.”

In response, the mother, whose name was never revealed, called the local television station to share the story. Before long it made its way through media outlets like Time and Huffington Post and created buzz on social media channels.

Pizza Hut rewards employee

Local news outlets can be a great source of organic brand stories.

“Stories like this do build a sense of pride in our organization,” Pizza Hut PR Director Doug Terfehr says about the positive impact of the story.

In this case, the story grew organically. “Nothing was forced or placed,” Terfehr says, but there are instances where the public relations team has uncovered stories like this and shared them with the public. They’re not always easy to find, but when you do find a gem, it can have a powerful impact.

To help your brand find and share organic stories, Terfehr suggests these tips:

Trawl social media channels

Social media is a great place to find these random acts of kindness. Terfehr says his team monitors all of the major platforms, keeping an eye out for chatter about their brand. Aside from searching through hashtags and newsfeeds, you might also consider setting up Google Alerts, which sends you an email and a link anytime your business or brand is mentioned online.

Listen to the people on the ground

Pizza Hut asks its managers to keep an ear out for these kinds of stories. During regular meetings, managers are encouraged to share any anecdotes that might be beneficial to the PR team. That’s how Terfehr learned about an employee at a Portsmouth restaurant who was donating her tips to a financially strapped animal shelter. Pizza Hut matched the donation and reimbursed the waitress for her tips twice over.

Let a story take root, then share it

When you find a story that’s worth sharing, it’s okay to do so, Terfehr says. If it’s appropriate, send a press release to the local media outlets and share it on social media, but try not to be too flashy.

“Allow the situation to organically take care of itself,” Terfehr suggests. For example, let news stations reveal the story. Let organizations, like the animal shelter that received the donation in the Portsmouth story, be the first to post it on social media. Let the story take root before you jump onboard. Stranger Pays for Family's Dinner

Carefully ask people to share their stories

If you find a good story, it can be tough to approach a person and ask them to share it for marketing purposes. Terfehr says his team only approaches people if it feels unobtrusive. It’s important not to force these stories. If you think it’s appropriate to approach someone about a story, do so with tact. If that person is hesitant to share, don’t press it.

Do the right thing

If your company hears about an amazing customer or a generous employee, do what you can to support them. Pizza Hut matched a charitable donation. They did it because it was right to recognize their employee for her hard work and her generosity, not because they wanted to get on the local news. Often, when a company gives back, it’s rewarded by grass-roots media attention.

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About Lisa Furgison

Lisa Furgison is a freelance journalist and co-owner of a media company, McEwen's Media. Find her on Twitter @lfurgison.