Category: Communication Tips

How to Tell Your Community’s Story—with Style!  

Every community has a wealth of interesting stories to tell. What makes your town unique? More importantly, how can you share those stories to drive tourism, welcome new businesses and residents and put your community on the map in a whole new way?

I call it “story selling,” and it works.

I first discovered the power of a story to inspire action in 1998 when I was a full-time editor at the Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman. I had the chance to write about something interesting close to my home area of Lake City and Yetter (“Everything’s Better in Yetter”—what a town motto!).

The first thing that popped into my mind? The Jake Burger at the Yetter Café.

Now, granted, this was a tasty, thick, juicy burger, but it’s like a lot of other beef burgers. No secret sauce, wild ingredients or anything like that. What made the story come alive, though, was the restaurant owner.

Merlin “Jake” Janssen is one of those local characters who has done a little bit of everything in his life, from trucking to cooking. When he opened a café in an early 1900s-era two story clapboard home on Plum Street in Yetter, his Yetter Café soon developed a loyal following, from the employees at the ag co-op across the railroad tracks to area farmers to locals who wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

Not one to stick with boring names like “hamburger” or “cheeseburger,” Jake was a marketing wizard of sorts who named his most famous creation the Jake Burger. My story set the stage with all the sensory details, from the cozy feel of the tiny dining room to the savory aroma wafting from the kitchen as Jake fried the burgers. I also shared some of Jake’s backstory along the way, showing what sparked his interest in the restaurant business (I’m a people person!” he exclaimed) and what it’s like to run a café in a town of 35 people.

I described how the Jake Burger came with all the trimmings, from lettuce to tomato to onion. I noted that each culinary creation was prepared by Jake himself. For added spice, I dished about tales of how each Jake Burger was always served with a hearty side of small talk and wise cracks.

After my story and a photo of Jake with his namesake burger ran in the Spokesman, I asked Jake if he got much feedback from that article. “I sure did,” he said. “One guy drove all the way from Nashua to just to try a Jake Burger. Can you believe that?”

To the casual observer, it might seem unbelievable that someone would drive more than 150 miles one way to tiny town to eat a Jake Burger. But that, my friends, is the power of story.

Why does a good story matter?

Imagine a world without stories. If you’re like me, you can listen to a few facts, but not many before you start tuning out. In this hectic, distracted world, true stories well told are incredibly powerful, since they:

  • Capture people’s attention
  • Propel you past the dreaded “sales pitch syndrome” and invite people to relax and listen
  • Put facts in context and make them relevant to your audience
  • Convey complex information in a way that’s easy to understand
  • Add value
  • Build trust
  • Boost your competitive advantage
  • Showcase the quality of life in your community (arts, entertainment, economic development and more)
  • Inspire people to share your content
  • Make your community more memorable
  • Encourage new businesses to locate in your area
  • Attract more grants and investment in your community
  • Help existing businesses grow and retain quality employees
  • Honor the community’s history
  • Enhance community pride
  • Attract new residents
  • Create momentum that translates into economic development

What makes a good story?

The first step is to identify the people and places that make your community unique. Story ideas might come from the new business that came to town in the last few years, or they might be inspired by the factory that’s been in the community for generations.

Good stories can be found at the local cafe that offers foods inspired by the region, or they can reflect the unique public art project that graces your town square. Compelling stories might include the historic highway that runs through your town and how this influenced the town’s growth, or a great story might focus on a must-see item at the local museum run by dedicated volunteers.

Above all, unforgettable stories revolve around people. Always humanize your stories to help them resonate with your audience.

How do I tell a good story?

Here are some do’s and don’ts:

  • Do train your brain to always be looking for potential stories you can share.
  • Don’t just rattle off lists of facts or opinions (our town has 2,500 people, we have 20 businesses in town, we are a progressive community, etc.). This information is important, but it’s not a story.
  • Do learn what defines a story. Some of the best stories take a problem/solution format, almost like a case study. In my hometown of Lake City, Iowa, I think of Opportunity Living, a home for handicapped people. In a nutshell, the story is a classic problem/solution story that goes like this:
    • “For generations, Lake City, Iowa, was a vibrant rural community and economic hub, but the 1980s Farm Crisis devastated the local area and led to the demise of many long-time businesses like Snyder Implement. Community leaders knew something needed to change, so they envisioned new possibilities for the large, vacant implement business on the east edge of town. Through their hard work, Opportunity Living took shape in the late 1980s and early 1990s and now provides homes throughout Lake City and Rockwell City for people with special needs. This dynamic organization also provides many jobs for local people and helps enhance the quality of life in the community.”
  • Do use stories to show how people of all ages are making a positive difference in your community.
  • Don’t forget to find partners throughout the community who can help you identify and share stories. Partner with the school, local businesses, volunteers, civic groups, church groups and others.
  • Do choose your words carefully. Community leaders in Jefferson, Iowa, for example, doesn’t refer to vacant buildings as “empty buildings.” They call them “available buildings.”

How can I use my story to promote my community?

Here are some stories I’ve written about local entrepreneurs and tourism destinations:

Events Spark Stories That Help Backcountry Winery Grow in Iowa

Young Entrepreneur Grows a Healthy Business in Small-Town Iowa 

Digging Deeper: Volunteers Showcase Thomas Jefferson Gardens

People are listening! 
I received this wonderful note from Mary Weaver after I wrote the story about the Thomas Jefferson Gardens: 

“On a very pleasant note, we are getting visitors because of the articles. We have, that we are aware of, three different sets of visitors from Humboldt. It is the type of visitor story we will tell the City Council when we report to them in September.

The best anecdote was a woman who was part of an assisted living bus tour that was coming to Jefferson from Humboldt, but the destination was the casino. She persuaded the driver her to bring her to TJG rather than the casino and she stayed the entire length of time the others were gambling.

The second was a couple I met yesterday during Tuesday Talks. It was their second visit for a “Tuesday Talk,” they ate at a local restaurant, went shopping at the quilt and antique store.

Certainly is the type of economic/tourism development we have been hoping to create. Thank you Darcy for your splendid articles about the Thomas Jefferson Gardens”

How can I use my story over and over?

Repurposing your stories is one of the smartest marketing moves you can make. Stories can take many forms, including blog posts, press releases, newspaper or magazine articles, videos, social media posts (for mini stories or links to your stories online), podcasts, speeches, photographs, advertisements and more. The key is to meet your audience where they’re at and use various marketing channels to spread the word.

Remember, if you don’t tell your story, who will? It’s a fun journey, and you stand so much to gain.

 

What if I don’t know where to start, or I just don’t have enough time to write my community’s stories?

If your budget allows, you might want to hire a professional storyteller. I understand the power of storytelling, because I’ve lived it and use it to grow my own business. As a trained journalist, book author, business owner, entrepreneur, marketer, historian and farmer, I offer you a writer’s skill, a storyteller’s artistry, an entrepreneur’s insight, a historian’s knowledge, and a farmer’s practicality.

My formal education includes bachelor’s degrees in journalism/mass communication and history from Iowa State University (ISU), along with a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) with an emphasis in marketing from ISU, but that’s just part of the story.

I also bring 20+ years of professional storytelling, writing and marketing experience and have served clients of all sizes, from local mom-and-pop businesses to multi-national corporations like Syngenta, help share their stories. I’m “bilingual” in terms of my ability to speak your language and the language that resonates with your clients and prospects.

When I started my writing/marketing business (Darcy Maulsby & Co.) in 2002, I learned the hard way that I can’t be everything to everybody. I’m not an expert in video production. I don’t like managing other people’s social media pages. I do specialize in storytelling, though, and am ready to put this powerful marketing tool to work for you.

I look forward to visiting with you to find out what makes your organization tick. Let’s discover those specific details and pivotal moments that make your stories relevant, relatable and unforgettable. Then I’ll show you how we can shape this raw material into stories that speak to the hearts and minds of your audience.

I invite you to connect with me at www.darcycmaulsby.com and on social media (I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). I look forward to staying in touch.

 

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, agriculture updates, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page, or click here. Feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at yettergirl@yahoo.com. 

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

Talk to you soon!

Darcy

@Copyright 2018 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

Quit Using “Stupid Language”

Pop quiz—would you rather use lots of junk words and jargon that don’t mean anything, or speak like a real person and be a great communicator? Even “The Bob and Tom Show” hosts have had enough of “stupid language.”

Yep, “stupid language” is the term that came up this week when Kristi Lee was reading news headlines on “The Bob and Tom Show” as I was driving to Mid-Iowa Cooperative to work on their newsletter.

Here’s a snippet from the Jan. 8, 2018, Circuit City press release that triggered a lively debate:

“Circuit City is set to announce official company relaunch at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Monday January 8th at 3:00 PM PST during a special press event. Circuit City is expected to announce its official launch concentrated on the retail verticals of e-commerce, mobile, technology, omni-channel commerce.”

Huh?

That’s what Kristi, Bob, Tom and other hosts were asking. What exactly are retail verticals and omni-channel commerce?

Some of the radio hosts argued that the audience would be familiar with these terms. Others weren’t so sure and asked a key question: why not just clearly say what you mean?

Bob and Tom

Bob and Tom Show photo from http://www.955glo.com/shows/bob-tom/.

It didn’t get any better as the press release droned on about “enhancing the product discovery journey” and “relaunching with a new agenda of enhancing shopping experiences with cutting-edge technology.”

All this just made Circuit City the butt of endless jokes (including the flippant remark “what a douchebag,” referring to company leadership) on “The Bob and Tom Show,” a nationally-syndicated radio show with millions of listeners. We all got the message when one host put it bluntly. “Quit using stupid language.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Communicating to clarify or confuse—take your pick
Whether you call it stupid language or jargon, it abounds nearly everywhere you go, from business to politics to agriculture. Sometimes it’s not all bad. Jargon (including acronyms) can enhance communication by eliminating unnecessary words—but this only works when everyone knows this insider language.

If I start talking about N, P, and K rates or VRT, other farmers will know immediately I’m referring to nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium fertilizer and variable-rate technology. This wouldn’t be obvious to non-farmers, though.

You venture into the realm of “stupid language” when your audience doesn’t understand what you’re trying to say, and you make no effort to spell it out. It’s easy to see why audiences view jargon, buzzwords and corporate-speak as signs that you don’t have a clear grasp of what you want to say—or a clear grasp of your subject.

But this is just the start of the unsettling reality.

As a trained journalist who has interviewed thousands of people in the past 20 years, I’ve learned there’s an even more troubling reason why some people use complex, confusing language. They think that if they dress things up in clever, convoluted concepts, they can deflect the tough questions that cut to the core of tough challenges that rarely have quick or straightforward answers.

It’s the old smoke-and-mirrors trick, and it’s deadly to communicating like a leader.

3 tips to avoid the “stupid language” trap
So how to do choose words that influence and inspire, rather than confuse? Here are my three top tips:

1. Always keep your audience top of mind. Effective communication is not about sounding smart—it’s about sharing a useful message that resonates with your audience. Listen to your audience. What do they want (or need) to know? What would improve their life, solve a problem, help them reach their goals? Since the Circuit City press release was apparently geared towards the media, there are actually two audiences here—reporters and their readers, listeners or viewers. Reporters want an interesting, newsworthy story. Their audience wants tech news that’s presented clearly and shows them how technology (and the companies that supply it) can make their life easier and more enjoyable. Since the big story here is the relaunch of a brand that many people thought was dead, I’d focus on how the comeback of Circuit City will benefit the company’s self-proclaimed target audience of “legacy Circuit City customers to Millennials.”

2. Use simple language. Why use a $1 word when a 10-cent word will do? This isn’t dumbing down the language. This is effective communication. In the case of the Circuit City press release, don’t assume that everyone hearing this message is an electronics expert or techie. Skip the jargon and tech-speak. Instead of “omni-channel commerce,” which isn’t a common term to many people, try, “We sell online and offline and wants to serve people wherever it’s convenient for them, whether that’s in a physical store, an online store or on social media.”

3. Tell a story to support your key point. “Just the facts, ma’am” may have worked for Detective Joe Friday in the classic “Dragnet” TV series, but the facts alone are rarely enough to captivate an audience. Think about it. When you go to party, you don’t walk up to a group of people and say, “I’m pleased to report that I optimized my marketing plan this week to monetize my business.” You tell people a story about what happened. They become intrigued and ask questions. They might even tell others, if the story is compelling enough. With this kind of an exchange, you’ve just accomplished one of communication’s toughest objectives–creating a story that passes the “So what? Who cares?” test.

The bottom line? Be conscious of the language you use when you communicate, whether it’s an e-mail, an article, a speech or a media interview. Putting these three proven tips to work will help you avoid the pitfall of “stupid language”—and that’s no joke.

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, agriculture updates, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page, or click here. Feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at yettergirl@yahoo.com. 

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

Talk to you soon!

Darcy

@Copyright 2018 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

How Did We Get So Rude?

Ever come across something that takes on a deeper meaning every time you hear it? That’s how I felt when I scanned an online top 10 list of new year’s quotes and saw #8:

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors and let every new year find you a better man.” — Benjamin Franklin

Seems like our society is increasingly mixing up the first two pieces of advice to the point where more people are at war with their neighbors and at peace with their vices, at least when it comes to rudeness. How did we get so rude? It made me think back to when I heard Mary Kramer articulate this pivotal issue.

I was in Winterset this fall when Kramer spoke to our class at Leadership Iowa, which is designed to instill passion in Iowa’s current and emerging leaders while fostering a high level of civic engagement. I saw a lot of heads nodding in agreement when Kramer, a former Republican state senator who was elected president of the Iowa Senate in 1997, tackled head-on the erosion of civil public discourse in America.

“We used to be able to debate with our adversaries without resorting to the demonization of one another,” said Kramer, a former United States Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. “Back then, debates on important issues were challenging–even fun. Demonization used to be a last resort. Now we seem to begin with it.”

Demonization involves a shift from debating issues to attacking people. If we can destroy the career or the character of someone who is “getting it all wrong,” all would be well, or at least better.

It’s noxious process, Kramer stressed. Viewing those we disagree with as the embodiment of evil results in a profound loss of perspective on the humanity of our opponents. They stop being human beings like us, who happen to disagree on some issues.

Demonization isn’t limited to politics. It has spread like a cancer into entertainment, 24-hour news, social media and beyond. Its ubiquitous presence tempts people to cross the line between civility and rudeness without a second thought.

It also distorts reality. Just because someone passionately believe in something, does that belief allow him or her to mandate these views on everyone else?

No.

Not here, where generations of Americans have honored our heritage of meeting together, sharing information about a broad range of issues and seeking common ground. While our history isn’t one of perfect unity (far from it), we still found a way to move forward for the common good.

Let’s learn from the past and remind ourselves that the keys to combating this current rash of rudeness aren’t complex. They just require some human decency, a little kindness and a willingness to start with one key question: what problem are we trying to solve? I agree with Kramer that working together to agree on the problem statement often introduces common ground.

• Next, listen. Too often we underestimate the power of truly listening to others. Listen with curiosity, rather than “listening” with the intent to reply.

• Ask clarifying questions. Try to understand why people believe the way they do. Don’t just rush to judgement. Ask sincere (not snarky) questions, and try to discover what motivates someone to feel the way they do. As a writer who has interviewed thousands of people, I’m still sometimes shocked by the answers people give me. Plus, their viewpoints either challenge me to reconsider my own views or at least clarify why I believe what I believe.

• Acknowledge the validity of the other person’s position. While you don’t have to agree with someone’s viewpoint, you can and should acknowledge their position. Consider a controversial topic like water quality. Even if I don’t agree with someone’s opinion about the way to address this challenge, I can acknowledge this person’s concerns and validate the goal of clean, healthy drinking water.

Sure, not everyone who disagrees with you will follow this advice. Still, you’ve set the stage for more productive conversations, rather than head-on collisions propelled by rudeness.

Also, be encouraged by these words that Kramer came across years ago and shared with us at Leadership Iowa:

• Iowa is the place where the dream still lives.

• Iowa is the America we grew up believing in. It is liberty bought by hard work and integrity.

• It’s the belief that the future will be even better than today if we will work to make it that way.

So – can we talk? More important, can we listen?

This column originally appeared in January 2018 in Farm News. 

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, agriculture updates, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page, or click here. Feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at yettergirl@yahoo.com. 

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

Talk to you soon!

Darcy

@Copyright 2018 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

Free Gifts! (Let’s Talk Listening, Stories and History)

Are you ready for Christmas? I’m not, and I’m totally ok with that.

Yep, I’ve still got baking to do, my house is messy (no surprise) and I barely got the Christmas tree up at a respectable time. One bright spot? I’ve got a pretty good handle on gifts, thanks to my travels across Iowa. I don’t stop with tangible gifts, though. As someone who believes in communicating like a leader and preserving history, I know many of the most meaningful gifts go far beyond items you can buy in the store. Best of all, these gifts are free and can be replenished anytime.

This year, be sure to give:

• The gift of listening. Remember how you felt the last time someone really listened to you? It’s so powerful, especially in this age of digital distractions. There’s something about being heard—truly heard—that fulfills a deep-seated human need for connection. It’s a bonus that listening also offers a great way to learn.

• The gift of stories. Humans also have a deep-seated need for stories. Our brains are wired to remember stories much more that data and facts. Plus, stories can be fun. Not sure where to start? Share stories of your favorite Christmas memories to start a conversation. Since I’m a food writer, you can bet many of my stories revolve around food. Here’s a goodie from my archives about how Lake City’s Shakespeare Club, of which I’m a member, has maintained good taste in small-town Iowa for more than 123 years. (Don’t miss the recipes for my Healthy Corn Tortellini Chowder, Cheesy Artichoke Dip and a festive Celebration Slush.)

• The gift of history. Speaking of memories, pull out the old family photo albums (please tell me you still have some around, right?), or watch your vintage home movies, and have a blast remembering the way you were. I guarantee younger generations will get a kick out of seeing your swinging ‘60s vibe, your ‘70s disco style, your ‘80s mullet or whatever defined your look back in the day. I also love sharing resources that bring history to life with stories and images. Maybe that’s why I’m such a huge fan of Coca Cola Journeys, in which Coca Cola’s top-notch team shares the most interesting stories ranging from storied history of Notre Dame football (and the Coca-Cola connection) to The Story of the Coca-Cola Polar Bears: How Man’s Best Friend Provided the Creative Inspiration Behind the Beloved Icons.

Enjoy these free gifts, my friends, and share the gifts of listening, stories and history with others, not just during the holidays, but year-round.

Have any stories or family history you like to share, especially during the holiday season? Feel free to start the conversation here. I’m listening!

Yep, Iowans love to put Christmas trees in the middle of the street, and many communities have been doing this for generations. Click on the photo for the whole story.

 

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, agriculture updates, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page, or click here. Feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at yettergirl@yahoo.com. 

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

Talk to you soon!

Darcy

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

@Copyright 2018 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

Does Accuracy Even Matter Anymore?

Maybe I’m old-school, but I find myself longing for the days when journalists—or anyone writing content and sharing it with others—at least attempted to get the facts straight.

Is this an unreasonable request? It seems so, in this era of fake news and being “first rather than accurate.”

That’s why this issue bugs me so much.

It started last week when I saw an article in an online ag news outlet about how 2017 yields weren’t dampened by wet harvest conditions. Then I saw that the article quoted some grain marketing specialists, including my friend Karl from Iowa, although they called him Carl. The errors didn’t stop there.

Instead of listing his proper title of risk management team leader, the writer called him a “risk leader.” Wow—there’s a big difference between a risk leader and a risk management leader, I’d say.

I couldn’t resist e-mailing Karl.

From: Darcy Maulsby [mailto:yettergirl@yahoo.com] 
Sent: Wednesday, November 01, 2017 10:13 AM
To: Karl

Hey Karl,
I see that you’re now Carl, risk leader. Cool title! 🙂

Hope you’re doing well.

Take care,
Darcy

From: Karl 
To: Darcy Maulsby <yettergirl@yahoo.com> 
Sent: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 10:19 AM

HAHAHA!!!

What’s even worse is I spelled out my name, first and last, to him, and my job title.
I believe he was an intern and was past the point of caring.
From: Darcy Maulsby [mailto:yettergirl@yahoo.com] 
Sent: Wednesday, November 01, 2017 10:24 AM
To: Karl

Oh no–you handed him the info. on the silver platter, and he still screwed it up! Yes, definitely past the point of caring. Good thing he’s not a grain marketer. 🙂

From: Karl 
To: Darcy Maulsby <yettergirl@yahoo.com> 
Sent: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 10:22 AM

Exactly.

And the hits keep coming
Then I had my own brush with inaccurate reporting. I offering a history program and book signing in central Iowa recently. The event was covered in the local press, which was great, until I spotted three errors in one 22-word sentence.

I learned that I moved to Granger (not true—I still live in the country near Lake City and Yetter), my latest book came out last September (not exactly–it was released Sept. 4, 2017), and my book is called “Dallas County Images.” (Strike three. It’s “Dallas County,” which is part of Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series).

Before I even read the article, I knew something was wrong, because a friend e-mailed me and asked if it were true that I had moved to Granger. (I lived near Granger from 2001-2006, and while it’s a great place, I have no plans to move back.) Oh boy.

Let’s bring accuracy back 
So these two recent examples left me with one question. Why were there so many careless errors that the writers could easily have avoided?
I know we’re all human and make mistakes. Believe me, through the years I’ve had plenty of typos and mistakes creep into my writing that has been published in print and online. Still, I try to get it right by:

• Becoming a world-class listener
• Taking good notes
• Asking questions for clarification
• Doing my homework (such as checking the proper spelling of names, titles, dates, etc.)
• Requesting that the source (when appropriate) review information for factual accuracy
• Striving to do better and tell the most accurate, interesting stories possible

While these are helpful tips for any of us who want to become better communicators, they are essential for professional communicators. I don’t believe it’s unfair to hold professional communicators to a higher standard.

After all, accuracy isn’t old-fashioned, even if it is increasingly rare. It’s vital for clear communication that positions you as a trusted resource—an advantage that will never go out of style.

What’s your take?
So now I’d like to hear from you. What are your pet peeves when it comes accuracy (or the lack thereof) in communication? Join the discussion, and leave a comment.

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.
If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page. Feel free to share this information with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at yettergirl@yahoo.com. 

Talk to you soon!

Darcy

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

@Copyright 2017 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

Always Alert-How to Stay Safe in Any Situation

What was that? None of us knew what was going on at first, and I was confused—and alarmed.

It happened on the bright, sunny morning of October 16, as hundreds of us were gathered at 9 a.m. in the ballroom of the downtown Marriott Hotel in Des Moines for the Iowa Hunger Summit. I thought this would just be another routine meeting to cover. Boy, was I wrong.

After opening remarks from Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation, and Iowa Farm Bureau Federation President Craig Hill, five former U.S. Department of Agriculture secretaries (including Tom Vilsack, Ed Schafer, Mike Johanns, Ann Veneman, and Dan Glickman) stepped on stage for a panel discussion. (You can read my recap of the panel discussion in my article “Hungry for Answers” in Farm News.)

Suddenly there was a ruckus from the back of the ballroom. There were voices shouting, although I couldn’t make out the words at first. Everyone began looking around to see what was going on. Was this a surprise part of the program?

Suddenly a small group of young men holding a large white banner painted with red lettering marched down the aisle. It soon became evident they were chanting about “hell no GMOs” over and over. A slender young woman dashed after them, capturing the footage on her cell phone.

It also became clear this group intended to stand between the bewildered audience and row of former ag secretaries on stage, as the protestors belted out their angry chant. I don’t know exactly how long the group took over the Iowa Hunger Summit, but it seemed much longer than it probably was.

It appeared that most of the audience, myself included, froze in shock, desperately hoping someone would take control of the situation.

Finally, a tall gentleman dressed in a business suit demanded that the protestors leave, herding them at times towards the side exit doors, since the group showed no signs of leaving voluntarily. One protestor nearly knocked over Iowa Public Television’s camera near the side of the stage as he and his cohorts continued shouting.

The spectacle didn’t come to an end until the protestors turned to face the audience as they were escorted out of the side doors, bellowing, “Shame, shame, shame” all the way.

While I breathed a big sigh of relief as the Iowa Hunger Summit proceeded without incident, I couldn’t help but think about the mass shooting in Las Vegas just days before. I also started thinking how vulnerable all of us were in that ballroom, if the worst had happened.

What if the worst had happened?
I started researching personal safety and situational awareness and am now rethinking the way I view the world. In many ways, these safety tips boil down to the power of observation, a tool I use daily as a writer and encourage you to use, as well.

• Think ahead. A 2014 study from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) found that most active shooter events end in 2 minutes or less. This means you have little time to think if you’re caught in this situation. You’ve got to have a plan ahead of time, since you may only have seconds to act.

• Know your natural tendencies. When any sort of emergency arises, be it an active shooter or even a fire, the natural response for most people, surprisingly enough, is to not do anything. It’s human nature to freeze up in emergency situations. Another bias that keeps us from taking action is our natural tendency to follow the crowd. If we see that everyone else is locked up by inertia, we tend to act the same. Be aware of these forces, and prepare to counteract them.

• Visualize for safety. When you enter a public space, whether it’s a hotel meeting room, restaurant, airport, theater or other venue, take note of the exits. Also, put yourself in position so you can observe as much of your surroundings as possible. Try to sit with your back against the wall, for example, not the larger room where someone can come up behind you.

• Stay in “condition yellow.” This means you’re relaxed but always alert. Remaining aware of your surroundings will give you a head start if an emergency arises. Some safety experts call this ABO (Always Be Orienting). Don’t get so absorbed in your smartphone, for example, that you fail to pay attention to the world around you.

• Establish baselines and look for anomalies. Know what’s normal in a given situation. If something seems out of the ordinary, keep an eye on it.

• Play the “A” game. The “A” game, or awareness game, means you take note of details everywhere you go, from the gender, hair color and clothing of the person behind the counter at the convenience store to the number of exits you see in the theater. This game trains you to be mindful of your surroundings and can help you create a plan of action wherever you go.

• Call 911. If you find yourself in the midst of an emergency, get to safety as soon as possible, and then call 911. Don’t assume someone else already has.

It takes practice to truly pay attention to what’s going on around you, but this skill can a long ways in keeping you from appearing like an easy target. You want to get to the point where situational awareness is just part of your daily routine, much like looking both ways before you cross the street.

Don’t be paranoid, just mindful. Honing your powers of observation will pay big dividends and might even save your life.

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by.  I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you want more intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page. Feel free to share this information with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too. Talk to you soon! 

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

@Copyright 2017 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

6 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Write—Even When You’re Not in the Mood

Seems like hardly a week doesn’t go by when someone asks me about how to get published or how to muster enough discipline to write in the first place. Since I think I have a touch of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), I rely on 6 methods that may seem a bit unorthodox, but they work. (By the way, they also work for other areas of your life, not just writing.)

1. Think in terms of wealth. Your discipline will begin to kick in the moment you embrace the idea that writing is the basis of all wealth. This may or may not mean monetary wealth. Depending on the project, wealth might mean a paycheck. In other cases, wealth might mean sharing valuable ideas that help others, or simply enjoying the therapeutic process of putting ideas in a tangible form.

2. Call b.s. on writer’s block. Trust me—writer’s block is a myth. It doesn’t exist. Writing is an extension of thinking, so if you’re struggling, it’s not writer’s block; it’s thinker’s block. Stop blaming your lack of creativity and productivity on some mysterious, external force over which you have no control.

3. Prime the pump. If you have thinker’s block (and I definitely do from time to time), you’re not reading enough. You’re not listening enough. You’re not asking enough questions. You’re not making time every day to think. You’re not feeding your curiosity. Develop a mindset to perpetually hunt for insight. Even if I only have a few minutes to read each day, I explore everything from content marketing books to non-fiction history to biographies of serial killers—whatever strikes my fancy. Not only does this spark my motivation to write, but it helps me collect stories, catchy phrases, quirky quotes and memorable metaphors. I save all these gems in a “swipe file” (a basic, simple Word document) that I tap into to jump start the writing process.

4. Chill out and rest. I’m the first to admit I’m horrible at this. I’m trying to do a better job of getting my full 9 hours of sleep a night for greater focus and mental alertness during the day. (Yep, my body does best with 9 hours. Your body will tell you what works best for you.) Also, when I make time during the week to unplug and space out for a little while, my brain recharges and gives me a new shot of writing motivation. Fantastic, isn’t it, that building healthy breaks is essential to writing? You now have my permission to go take a nap.

5. Just do it for 10 minutes. Often the hardest part of any writing project is just getting started. Challenge yourself to write for 10 minutes. That’s it. Just 10 minutes. If you’re like me, I bet you’ll pick up some momentum fast, and you won’t want to quit. Even if you do stop at 10 minutes, you’ve still made progress. Way to go!

6. Lower your standards. For a recovering perfectionist like me, it has taken a lifetime to learn this. (I’m still working on this lesson, by the way.) Perfect is the enemy of good, and a good writing project completed is vastly superior to a perfect writing project that exists only in your head.

I hope these tips help you on your journey to becoming a better communicator. If you have any tips that have worked for you, let me know. Write on!

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

@Copyright 2017 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

6 Steps for More Effective and Less Confrontational Conversations!

When was the last time you changed your mind? Not about something fairly inconsequential, like what to eat for supper tonight, but about a pivotal issue where you took a stand but later changed your mind?

Probably not lately. Maybe never.

It was an intriguing question posed by fellow writer Tamar Haspel–a question that still has me pondering its ramifications a few weeks after Haspel’s visit to Iowa.

“Many people go into conversations about food and agriculture with the expectations of changing others’ minds,” said Tamar Haspel, a Washington Post columnist who accepted the Iowa Food and Family Project’s invitation to tour Iowa farms in late September and learn more about Midwest agriculture. “We need to stop talking past each other.”

Tamar Haspel provided plenty of food for thought during her lecture about Iowa food and farming–and how to have more productive conversations about these topics–during a late September presentation at Drake University in Des Moines.

Yes, we need to stop talking past each other, I thought after Haspel uttered these sentiments during a breakfast meeting at the Iowa Machine Shed.  It appeared that a lot of of the other ag leaders around the table with me were thinking the same thing.

If we believe we need to stop talking past each other, we need to understand more about how humans make decisions. Scottish philosopher and historian David Hume figured it out more than 200 years ago, Haspel noted, when he stated that reason is merely the “slave to the passions.”

“Why are we so bad at evaluating evidence?” asked Haspel, who is a Cape Cod oyster farmer and award-winning journalist who covers food supply issues, including biotech, pesticides, antibiotics, organics, nutrition and food policy.

Blame the confirmation bias, the human tendency to search for, interpret, favor and recall information that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs.

“Think about where the presets are on your car or truck radio,” said Haspel, who spoke at Drake University to approximately 50 people, including myself, on Sept. 27 during a public forum hosted by the Iowa Food and Family Project. “Think of the news sources you turn to and the people you follow on social media. All of us tend to live in our silo surrounded by people who think like us.”

How does all this play out with food and agriculture? Consider the facts. Farmers are mostly rural (no surprise) and Republican, based on campaign contributions reported to the Federal Election Commission. Activists and journalist are almost the exact opposite in these areas, Haspel said.

“This means farmers, activists and journalists are coming at food and agriculture issues with two completely different sets of values,” Haspel added.

6 steps for more effective conversations
This also means facts alone often aren’t persuasive. “So how do we communicate about food and farming? There are no good answers,” Haspel acknowledged.

Still, she offered six key steps to foster better communication, especially regarding food and agriculture topics:

1. Be persuaded that dynamics like the confirmation bias are real. While people often feel like they are rational human beings, everyone is susceptible to less-than-rational thinking. It’s time to re-evaluate the nature of certainty. “Are you right about everything?” Haspel asked the audience, who chuckled at the question. “So what aren’t you right about? It’s very difficult for us to spot where we go wrong, yet it’s easy to spot where others go wrong.” Two key questions keep Haspel awake at night as she strives to address her confirmation biases. “What do I get wrong? What am I not seeing? When you ask these questions, you go out into the world a little more circumspect,” she said.

2. Reconsider bias. Not only does everyone have biases, but bias is a necessary part of the human condition, Haspel said. “Expecting people to be objective is unfair.”

3. Drop “anti-science” from your vocabulary. “There’s science to say anything,” Haspel said. “When this plays out in the GMO debate, saying, ‘You’re anti-science’ translates as ‘you’re an idiot and I’m not.’”

4. Vet your sources. Assess the credibility of news sources, and seek various points of view. “I try to make sure my Twitter feed has lots of people I don’t agree with, along with people I agree with,” Haspel said.

5. Acknowledge truth on both sides. During her tour of Iowa farms, Haspel observed how many farmers feel beleaguered and lead with their defense. She also understands where this mindset comes from, as some audience members at Drake quizzed her about whether large-scale farming changes farmers’ motivations and turns agriculture into a profit-driven operation only. Other audience members questioned farmers’ commitment to protecting water quality and stressed the need for more regulation. “I talked with Iowa farmers who are definitely stewards of the land,” Haspel said. “But are there farmers who aren’t doing it right? Yes, there’s a minority for whom these criticisms apply. Since there is justice in some of the criticism, maybe that can help us find some common ground.”

6. Find intelligent people who disagree with you, and listen. “It’s so easy for us to talk to people who agree with us,” Haspel said. “I try to find the smartest person I know who doesn’t agree with me, and I listen carefully.”

Tamar Haspel communication

Audience members at Drake University in Des Moines, including Iowa Turkey Federation Executive Director Gretta Irwin (third from left) pondered Tamar Hapels’ 6 tips on more effective conversations involving food and ag topics.

Opening minds, acknowledging truth
I was fascinated by what I was hearing. I also wanted to talk this through with a colleague who attended Haspel’s lecture. I reached out to Gretta Irwin, a home economist and executive director of the Iowa Turkey Federation.

“Tamar opened our minds by helping us understand how we form opinions,” Irwin told me. “She also provided great examples of how we need to be open to thinking about questions, acknowledging truths on both sides, admitting where improvements can be made and learning more about the perspective of the opposing view.”

When questioned about modern agriculture, Haspel did a great job presenting both perspectives of the issue, Irwin added. “She clearly showed there’s no simple solution to issues facing agriculture.”

I also checked in with Sean McMahon, executive director of the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance.

“Tamar’s comments that we can all be more introspective and work to better understand the other side’s perspectives resonated with me. Welcoming constructive dialogue, in the spirit of continuous improvement, can help further efforts.”

He also liked Haspel’s emphasis on storytelling, as did I.  “Tamar’s advice that we should seek to influence through storytelling rather than through facts, figures, and science also struck a chord with me. By putting a human face on efforts and progress, we can reach more people with our story.”

Haspel encourages people to visit farms, have face-to-face conversations with farmers, try to see the benefits of all kinds of agriculture and find common ground, when possible. “If we can do nothing else, we can be kind,” Haspel said. “The common commitment to feeding people can also get us past the rhetoric.”

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by.  I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you want more more intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page. Feel free to share this information with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

Thanks,

Darcy

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

@Copyright 2017 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

6 Steps for More Effective and Less Confrontational Conversations

When was the last time you changed your mind? Not about something fairly inconsequential, like what to eat for supper tonight, but about a pivotal issue where you took a stand but later changed your mind?

Probably not lately. Maybe never.

It was an intriguing question posed by fellow writer Tamar Haspel–a question that still has me pondering its ramifications a few weeks after Haspel’s visit to Iowa.

“Many people go into conversations about food and agriculture with the expectations of changing others’ minds,” said Tamar Haspel, a Washington Post columnist who accepted the Iowa Food and Family Project’s invitation to tour Iowa farms in late September and learn more about Midwest agriculture. “We need to stop talking past each other.”

Tamar Haspel provided plenty of food for thought during her lecture about Iowa food and farming–and how to have more productive conversations about these topics–during a late September presentation at Drake University in Des Moines.

Yes, we need to stop talking past each other, I thought after Haspel uttered these sentiments during a breakfast meeting at the Iowa Machine Shed.  It appeared that a lot of of the other ag leaders around the table with me were thinking the same thing.

If we believe we need to stop talking past each other, we need to understand more about how humans make decisions. Scottish philosopher and historian David Hume figured it out more than 200 years ago, Haspel noted, when he stated that reason is merely the “slave to the passions.”

“Why are we so bad at evaluating evidence?” asked Haspel, who is a Cape Cod oyster farmer and award-winning journalist who covers food supply issues, including biotech, pesticides, antibiotics, organics, nutrition and food policy.

Blame the confirmation bias, the human tendency to search for, interpret, favor and recall information that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs.

“Think about where the presets are on your car or truck radio,” said Haspel, who spoke at Drake University to approximately 50 people, including myself, on Sept. 27 during a public forum hosted by the Iowa Food and Family Project. “Think of the news sources you turn to and the people you follow on social media. All of us tend to live in our silo surrounded by people who think like us.”

How does all this play out with food and agriculture? Consider the facts. Farmers are mostly rural (no surprise) and Republican, based on campaign contributions reported to the Federal Election Commission. Activists and journalist are almost the exact opposite in these areas, Haspel said.

“This means farmers, activists and journalists are coming at food and agriculture issues with two completely different sets of values,” Haspel added.

6 steps for more effective conversations
This also means facts alone often aren’t persuasive. “So how do we communicate about food and farming? There are no good answers,” Haspel acknowledged.

Still, she offered six key steps to foster better communication, especially regarding food and agriculture topics:

1. Be persuaded that dynamics like the confirmation bias are real. While people often feel like they are rational human beings, everyone is susceptible to less-than-rational thinking. It’s time to re-evaluate the nature of certainty. “Are you right about everything?” Haspel asked the audience, who chuckled at the question. “So what aren’t you right about? It’s very difficult for us to spot where we go wrong, yet it’s easy to spot where others go wrong.” Two key questions keep Haspel awake at night as she strives to address her confirmation biases. “What do I get wrong? What am I not seeing? When you ask these questions, you go out into the world a little more circumspect,” she said.

2. Reconsider bias. Not only does everyone have biases, but bias is a necessary part of the human condition, Haspel said. “Expecting people to be objective is unfair.”

3. Drop “anti-science” from your vocabulary. “There’s science to say anything,” Haspel said. “When this plays out in the GMO debate, saying, ‘You’re anti-science’ translates as ‘you’re an idiot and I’m not.’”

4. Vet your sources. Assess the credibility of news sources, and seek various points of view. “I try to make sure my Twitter feed has lots of people I don’t agree with, along with people I agree with,” Haspel said.

5. Acknowledge truth on both sides. During her tour of Iowa farms, Haspel observed how many farmers feel beleaguered and lead with their defense. She also understands where this mindset comes from, as some audience members at Drake quizzed her about whether large-scale farming changes farmers’ motivations and turns agriculture into a profit-driven operation only. Other audience members questioned farmers’ commitment to protecting water quality and stressed the need for more regulation. “I talked with Iowa farmers who are definitely stewards of the land,” Haspel said. “But are there farmers who aren’t doing it right? Yes, there’s a minority for whom these criticisms apply. Since there is justice in some of the criticism, maybe that can help us find some common ground.”

6. Find intelligent people who disagree with you, and listen. “It’s so easy for us to talk to people who agree with us,” Haspel said. “I try to find the smartest person I know who doesn’t agree with me, and I listen carefully.”

Tamar Haspel communication

Audience members at Drake University in Des Moines, including Iowa Turkey Federation Executive Director Gretta Irwin (third from left) pondered Tamar Hapels’ 6 tips on more effective conversations involving food and ag topics.

Opening minds, acknowledging truth
I was fascinated by what I was hearing. I also wanted to talk this through with a colleague who attended Haspel’s lecture. I reached out to Gretta Irwin, a home economist and executive director of the Iowa Turkey Federation.

“Tamar opened our minds by helping us understand how we form opinions,” Irwin told me. “She also provided great examples of how we need to be open to thinking about questions, acknowledging truths on both sides, admitting where improvements can be made and learning more about the perspective of the opposing view.”

When questioned about modern agriculture, Haspel did a great job presenting both perspectives of the issue, Irwin added. “She clearly showed there’s no simple solution to issues facing agriculture.”

I also checked in with Sean McMahon, executive director of the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance.

“Tamar’s comments that we can all be more introspective and work to better understand the other side’s perspectives resonated with me. Welcoming constructive dialogue, in the spirit of continuous improvement, can help further efforts.”

He also liked Haspel’s emphasis on storytelling, as did I.  “Tamar’s advice that we should seek to influence through storytelling rather than through facts, figures, and science also struck a chord with me. By putting a human face on efforts and progress, we can reach more people with our story.”

Haspel encourages people to visit farms, have face-to-face conversations with farmers, try to see the benefits of all kinds of agriculture and find common ground, when possible. “If we can do nothing else, we can be kind,” Haspel said. “The common commitment to feeding people can also get us past the rhetoric.”

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by.  I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you want more more intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page. Feel free to share this information with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

@Copyright 2017 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

Tell Your Story—But How?

You hear it everywhere these days. “You’ve got to tell your story,” you’re told, whether you’re a farmer, a business professional or you’re someone trying to get your message across to your local or federal lawmaker.

It’s a refrain Sen. Joni Ernst emphasized when she spoke at the 2017 Iowa Ag Summit in Des Moines in August. “I know I always say, ‘Tell me your stories,’ but they are essential as we create the next Farm Bill,” she said. “I can share your stories with others on the Senate Ag Committee, especially those who are far removed from rural America.”

“Tell your story” also popped up again when I interviewed Brad Greenway, a South Dakota pork producer and 2016 America’s Pig Farmer of the Year. Created by the National Pork Board, this program honors a U.S. pork producer who excels at raising pigs using the We Care ethical principles and is committed to sharing his or her farming story with the American public.

“If we don’t share our stories, who will?” asked Greenway, who has traveled from Stanford University to Vienna, Austria, to speak to influential audiences about modern agriculture from the farmer’s point of view. It’s a perspective that’s not often heard, yet it’s essential, as Greenway and Ernst know.

So this begs the question—HOW do you tell your story? Storytelling is a role that can feel a little—or a lot—unsettling when you’re much more comfortable driving a tractor, raising livestock or growing crops.

As someone who knows farming and has worked as a professional communicator for 20 years, here are my top 5 storytelling tips to get you started:

1. Become a story detective. It’s amazing how many people I’ve interviewed through the years who don’t think they have an interesting story. That’s when I take off my farmer cap and put on my “detective cap” to dig a little deeper. Then I find out you own 30 restored Farmall tractors and love to go on tractor rides. Perhaps I learn you’ve mastered your mom’s molasses cookie recipe and have the blue ribbon to prove it. Or maybe I discover that you’re an avid learner when it comes to conservation practices on your farm, or you have a first-hand knowledge of why crop insurance is so important. All these things are interesting to others, trust me. They are also potential stories.

2. Know your audience. So you’ve identified some things that are important to you. Now the big question becomes, “What’s important to my audience?” The answer is vital to how you present your story. When I write an article for Farm News, I start by visualizing a farmer I know who might be interested in the topic and think, “What information can I share that would be most valuable to Bill?”

3. Learn how to listen. Knowing your audience is only possible when you listen to their needs, wants, concerns and aspirations. Ask plenty of questions, and truly listen to the answers. Put on your detective cap one more time to uncover the common ground you share with your audience. Then you’ll be better prepared to present your story in a way that resonates with your audience.

4. Pay attention to detail. Always be concise, since fewer words tend to deliver more power. Yet share enough relevant details (from the sights, sounds and smells to the emotions the topic stirs in you) to make your story come alive. Great storytelling is as much art as a science. Study the methods of people you encounter who are good storytellers, learn from them and keep practicing.

5. Don’t stop. Sharing your story isn’t a once-and-done. It’s an ongoing process, but the payoff is worth it. Keep at it, and you can become a trusted voice who provides a valuable resource for people (sometimes very powerful, influential people) who want to hear your stories. Like Brad Greenway said, if those of us in agriculture don’t share our stories, who will? I think we all know how that story goes.

By the way, if you want more storytelling tips or would like to share your own stories with me, I’d love to hear from you.

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by.  I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you want more more intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page. Feel free to share this information with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press, as well as my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing, which showcases the history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

@Copyright 2017 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

About me:
Some people know me as Darcy Dougherty Maulsby, while others call me Yettergirl. I grew up on a Century Farm


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