Category: Storytelling

Why We Should Never Stop Asking Why

Ever been asked to speak at career day at the local middle school? If you haven’t, trust me when I say it’s an eye-opening, slightly nerve-wracking experience.

I volunteered with the Calhoun County Farm Bureau to speak at Ag Day on March 26 at the Manson Northwest Webster Middle School about my travels to Vietnam and South Korea a few years ago with the Iowa Corn Growers’ I-LEAD leadership group.

Then I headed west to Sac City on March 29 to share my “True Confessions of an Ag Journalist” program during the Sac County Farm Bureau’s I Am Ag career day, where professionals from veterinarians to bankers spoke about the pros and cons of their careers.

Throughout the day, each speaker is assigned a classroom, and we share our story 12 times in 25-minute segments. I always go home from these events exhausted, but I hope I added value for the students and helped spark their desire to keep learning.

What always amazes me is how different the response is from the sixth graders to the eighth graders. The sixth graders are excited to learn and have no fear of asking questions. In fact, many of them are quick to raise their hands to ask questions and share comments.

Everything changes when the eighth graders walk in the room. Many of these kids want to show you just how bored they are. Some convey clearly through their body language and comments that don’t want to be stuck in a classroom. Their eyes tell you in no uncertain terms that they’re just waiting to defy anyone who dares to challenge them to think and learn.

Undaunted, I tell every group of students I work with that one of the keys to being a successful writer/storyteller/journalist (or any leader, for that matter) is to be like the little kid who never stopped asking why. Always nurture your sense of wonder and curiosity. Not only is that how we learn, but it makes life more fun!

Why do we lose the why?
This experience made me wonder why so many people lose their desire to ask questions.

A Newsweek story, “The Creativity Crisis,” described the signs of declining creativity among our school children. The article noted that preschool kids ask their parents an average of 100 questions a day. WOW! By middle school, however, kids basically stop asking questions.

It is also around this time student motivation and engagement drop like a rock. Why? Our educational system tends to reward students for having the answer, not for asking good questions. Ask a question, and you risk looking ignorant.

Yet knowing how to ask the right questions in the right way is essential to career success, more enjoyable conversations, stronger interpersonal relationships and effective leadership. I can only tell compelling, clear stories for my clients and through my books when I ask the right questions.

Questions I use
I often work from a tried-and-true, proven set of open-ended questions that encourage sources to open up so we can go beyond the superficial and dig deeper to get to the good stuff—the defining moments, the setbacks, and the dreams that add life and vitality to any story.

Here are some of my key questions

1. What’s some of the best business advice—or advice for life—you’ve ever received?

2. What’s your motivation (for your work, or your life)?

3. What three things inspire you? (These can be people, books, movies, art, places, etc.)

4. What three words describe you?

5. What three words describe your company?

6. What’s something odd/interesting/unique about you? (This fun fact should not be so personal you would only share it with a therapist, but also not so safe it will bore us!)

7. How did you get started in the business you’re in?

8. Think back to when you first hit adulthood. What did you think your life would be like? What was your plan A? Are you still with Plan A, or did you move on to Plan B?

9. What obstacles did you overcome to get where you are today?

10. What’s a specific story of success in your business that drives you to do what you do? (A customer that really affected you, a person you were able to help, an accomplishment you were able to achieve?)

11. What do you like about your work?

12. What helpful lessons did you learn from previous jobs that you apply to your current role?

13. What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you at work?

14. What’s the best thing that ever happened to you/you witnessed at work?

15. How did your company get started?

16. What excites you about the future?

 

You can modify these questions (or create your own) and put them to work in your business, your home or your classroom. Please tell me how it goes, too. Don’t be surprised if I ask you why you think these questions work. I love to learn and hope you do to, too!

No matter what, never stop asking “why” about the world around you. We need more critical thinkers. Also remember the words of playwright George Bernard Shaw: “Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.”

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 2019 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

A Dirty Tip to Make Your Social Media Content More Shareable

Tire turd (noun): Wad of snow, ice, salt and gravel that piles up behind each vehicle tire in the winter. Removable only with explosives. #Iowa #winteriniowa

That’s a recent Facebook post I created when was in Red Oak, Iowa, this week, working on a newsletter for United Farmers Cooperative. When I stopped at the grain elevator, I saw this tire turd on my car. I decided to share it on my personal Facebook page. This silly post apparently struck a chord, because it has been liked 159 times, generated 23 comments and has been shared 17 times. Crazy!

This reminds me of one of the principles I teach in my storytelling classes. Shareability is a key to the most successful social posts.

People don’t just share any old content. Facebook reports that 0.5% of those who see a Facebook post share it. Of all the content links the average Twitter user receives, the re-tweet ratio is 1:318, according to one of my favorite books, “The Content Code,” by Mark Schaeffer.

Research sponsored by the New York Times found that people share content to:

• To be useful, since the info. is practical or timely
• To define themselves to others (look smarter, funnier, more relevant)
• To strengthen relationships with others
• Get the word out about causes, brands, events, etc. they care about

Think about the last time you shared something. What motivated you to do this?

How could you frame your stories and information to make your content more shareable?

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 2019 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

What To Do When the Travel Channel Calls

Just how far can things go when you tell agriculture’s story? Turns out your message might just resonate with a national audience.

For me, it all started with a simple email on June 15. I was checking inbox that morning when I saw a note with the subject line “Bizarre Foods: Delicious Destinations– Researching Iowa.”

Could this be THE Delicious Destinations show on the Travel Channel? The channel filled with some of the best food and travel stories anywhere on TV? The stuff I love watching on the weekends when I’m actually home and have a few hours to relax?

Yes, yes and yes.

The note came from Lauren Shaffer, a researcher with “Bizarre Foods Delicious Destinations.”

“Each of our episodes feature a different city and the edible icons that make it a delicious destination,” wrote Lauren, who included an online link to the show. “We’re looking at doing a Des Moines episode in our upcoming season, and I’d love to get your opinion on what you think are the must-eats that make Des Moines, and Iowa in general, so special. Right now, we’re looking at sweet corn, pork tenderloin and Maid-Rite sandwiches, to name a few. I’ve downloaded your book, A Culinary History of Iowa, on my Kindle, and I am excited to get started on it!”

Rule number one when you receive a media request—respond as quickly as possible.

Within minutes, I replied to Laruen that I would love to help. We set up a time to chat over the phone within the week. During our conversation, which lasted almost an hour, I had a great time sharing my thoughts on what makes Iowa’s culinary history unique, how our foods are tied to our rich agricultural heritage and what I thought were some iconic Iowa foods that should be part of the show (from breaded pork tenderloins to Dutch letters to Maid-Rites to sweet corn).

On July 12, I received a new email with the subject line “Food Expert – Travel Channel Food Show – Iowa.” This one came from Lauren’s colleague Stacie Buszmann, segment producer with Tremendous! Entertainment, which produces Delicious Destinations. (I love how the company says it specializes in telling great stories through passionate characters who want to change the world.)

Stacie asked if she could visit with me over the phone to get more input on the Iowa episode. We talked about not only potential stories, but logistics. What would make sense, given the timing of the filming (four days in August to coincide with the great 2018 Iowa State Fair) and how the TV crew would be based in the Des Moines area during their time in Iowa?

Then came the biggest surprise. “Would you be willing to be our food expert?” Stacie asked. “We’d love for you to meet the crew for your interview at The Corn Stand in the Varied Industries Building at the Iowa State Fair on Monday, August 13.”

I didn’t think twice. “Yes!”

What an honor to help share the amazing story of Iowa agriculture and our unique food culture. Before we filmed the segment that hot afternoon around 5:30 p.m., I had the chance to visit with writer Tiffany Thompson, who lives in Los Angeles.

Tiffany and her fellow TV crew members not only hail from across the country, but around the world. They also travel the globe as they gather stories to share through Delicious Destinations.

“I wish everyone had the chance to see the world the way we do,” Tiffany said. “You realize quickly how blessed we are, and you also see that people everywhere want the same things, including good food.”

Yes, I thought. I wish more people could experience rural Iowa the way I do. We are blessed by the abundance of good land and good food here. We are blessed by farmers like my neighbors and my family who strive to be as productive as possible while caring the environment and the community. Most of all, we share this remarkable culture of agriculture—something many people are far removed from today.

It’s a story worthy sharing. That’s why I’m excited to learn that episodes of Bizarre Foods Delicious Destinations have a long lifespan, sometimes being broadcast multiple times for up to 10 years after they’ve been produced. (Watch for the Iowa episode sometime in 2019).

There’s a reason why stories like this endure. “Food is a powerful way to bring people together,” Tiffany said.

I couldn’t agree more.

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 2019 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

Could Your Story Change Someone’s Life?

Are you a gambler? I’m not. I’ve never even bought a lottery ticket. Maybe it’s because I grew up on a farm. (I learned early on that farming is enough of a gamble—no casino needed!)

Perhaps that’s why I wasn’t listening too closely to a discussion on talk radio recently about online sports betting. It’s a sure bet that sports wagering will be debated this year in the Iowa Capitol.

I was listening to show off and on as I wrote a question-and-answer feature about how FFA influenced Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig’s career. The gambling debate wasn’t on my mind—until a story suddenly broke through and froze my fingers on the keyboard.

The radio show’s guest, Tom Coates, told the story of a woman who had called his family’s business, Consumer Credit of Des Moines, when she was caught in the strangling grip of a gambling addiction. Her ordeal had become so overwhelming, so costly and so shameful that she felt she was out of options—other than ending it all.

When she was driving home one night, she decided this was it. She was going to crash her car and end her life. For someone so consumed with despair, it made sense to her.

It just so happened that she had her car radio on during that fateful trip, however. A commercial from Consumer Credit caught her attention. Through a combination of the right message delivered in the right channel at the right time to the right audience, this simple ad (and maybe a serious jolt of divine intervention), stopped this woman from following through with her deadly plan.

She drove to a nearby gas station (this was in the days before everyone had a cell phone) and called Consumer Credit, Iowa’s largest credit counseling service. Consumer Credit’s message of helping people in financial trouble solve their debt problems touched something deep inside her. By dialing the phone, she received the help she needed.

Thanks to a simple radio ad, this woman’s story had a much happier outcome than it could have.

Cutting through the clutter–4 key takeaways 
While the stakes usually aren’t this high with most messages we share, that doesn’t mean our stories don’t matter. You will cut through the clutter of this noisy world when you 1.) add value by offering a solution for your audience, 2.) speak human, 3.) strike an emotional chord, and 4.) share your stories consistently through a variety of channels.

You just never know which story or which communication method will connect with the people you’re trying to reach. That’s why it pays to try a variety of formats, from online channels to print publications to audio or video.

Will you be top of mind when someone needs to hear your story? Never underestimate the power of a true story well told. Your story might just matter to someone more than you know.

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 2019 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

Stop Rumors Before They Ruin Your Brand

Seriously–how does this stuff get started?

Like many of you, one of my goals for 2019 has been to focus on wellness, and that includes more exercise. Since options are limited here in snowy, cold Iowa in the winter, I’m glad there’s an indoor swimming pool nearby that’s open to the public a few hours a day.

I was swimming with some of my friends this morning, and one of them asked, “Have you sent that email yet?” I didn’t know what she was talking about, and she said she’s trying to encourage people who use the pool to let the facility’s administrator let know how much the community values the pool and how we don’t want it to close.

Turns out there’s a rumor swirling around that the cost of maintaining the pool might be prompting people in charge of the facility to close the pool. Distressing information, indeed.

I was glad when another one of my friends (one who works at the facility) stopped by to said hi while I was in the water. I asked if the talk about closing the pool was true.

“Where did you hear that?”

We told her the rumor was going around town. “No, this pool is important,” she said. “We have no plans to close it down.”

Not only was I relieved, but I started thinking about another conversation I had at the pool this morning. One of my friends brought up the name of the administrator of a large organization in town–but she admitted she wasn’t sure what the lady’s name was. Smith? Jones? Not sure.

All of us in the pool agreed that we knew little about this person. We also agreed how important it is for an organization (and those who lead it) to remain visible and keep the lines of communication open.

I wonder how many rumors, snippets of misinformation and flat-out lies could be countered effectively if people–especially business leaders–would stay in touch regularly with employees, customers, prospects, donors, the media and other key audiences. I’m not talking about a once-and-done approach, either.

In my experience, the best approach involves an ongoing commitment to sharing true stories well told through blog posts, e-newsletters, magazine articles, social media posts, videos and more) to add value for your audience. Along the way, you establish yourself as a trusted leader.

It’s an approach worth considering, especially in a world where a lie told often enough tends to become the truth.

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 2019 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby.