Alexis Horton, Michigan Department of Natural Resources inclusion office tells her story during the Lansing Storytellers Project: 'Around the Campfire' event on Tuesday, May 21, 2019, at the Woldumar Nature Center in Lansing. Credit: Nick King/Lansing State Journal.
This year, we’re all talking about passion projects, purpose-driven work, and values alignments. Partially, it’s because we’re thoughtful, conscientious people. And partially, because consumers are increasingly pressuring brands and media to invest in socially conscious, responsible projects.
Of course, misalignments can be perilous in our culture of hot takes, as actions are scrutinized and reacted to with rapid incisiveness. It can be hard to figure out how to prioritize passions and partners.
But there are some things every American, and every brand, can rally around… like feminism, and the struggle for universal suffrage. (Sexy, right? This is what supporting Democracy looks like! Kidding, but not kidding.)
This year, USA TODAY and its Storytellers Project are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the ongoing fight for comprehensive equal rights in America. We are highlighting Women of the Century from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. through reader nominations and expert panels.
Women like Oprah Winfrey, Sonia Sotomayor and Billie Jean King inspire us, and hometown she-roes empower us. So, USA TODAY and its network of more than 260 newsrooms are launching a yearlong collection of stories, videos, augmented reality experiences and live storytelling nights to empower and educate.
And, TBH, we’re looking for partners who want to be civic leaders and champions for enfranchisement alongside us. Of course, sponsors get powerful national digital and print advertising and in-person opportunities to connect with audiences authentically, but they also get to be part of something larger than a traditional ad buy.
Martha Wolf tells her story during the Des Moines Register Storytellers Project at Hoyt Sherman Place on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, in Des Moines. Credit: Brian Powers/The Des Moines Register.
See, the USA TODAY network is dedicated to strengthening our democracy by encouraging greater civic, professional and community participation at all levels. Women of the Century does this by celebrating women leaders in all aspects of American life, inspiring those who follow.
We create culturally relevant experiences to bring the news to life. Inspired by the editorial direction of our network of more than 5,000 journalists, our events bring communities together through experiences that drive change in perception and behavior.
And when a brand invests in supporting journalism through underwriting ambitious projects like this one, there’s a direct line between their investment and their values as they fund apolitical, socially responsible work.
I’m responsible for a 15-city storytelling series recognizing the regional and state change-makers who mentor and enfranchise women in hometowns across America, and for organizing a national capstone event in Washington, D.C., celebrating the most impactful women of the last century.
We will lift up the stories of a Hopi Ninth Circuit Court judge, of a DREAMer, of Tennessee’s first Muslim female elected official, of one of Sandra Day O’Connor’s mentees – all bringing to life the vision, the hard work and the perseverance central to these women’s achievements.
Sandra Rohrer tells her story the power of letting go during the Des Moines Storytellers Project’s True Tall Tales: Stories so bizarre and mysterious they have to be true on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019, at Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines. Credit: Kelsey Kremer/The Des Moines Register.
Buying print and digital ads or underwriting a set of traditionally reported stories doesn’t seem especially exciting. But these spends are a direct and powerful way to put values into action. Whether online or in print, newsrooms that serve a specific geographic area – a neighborhood, a city, a state or even a whole region – are dedicated to explicitly improving the lives of the people who live in that area.
There are few investments brands could make that have a more obvious ROI for their consumers… Which, in turn, has very real ROI for brands.
So – if your brand wants to encourage people to register to vote or to encourage them to serve their communities – consider investing in one of the many ambitious, powerful projects being worked on right now by American newsrooms. Including my own!
And if you’re personally looking for an empowering, uplifting and profoundly inspiring thing to do on an otherwise normal weekday night, consider joining me at one of our Women of the Century storytelling nights in Nashville, Phoenix, Cincinnati or one of our sister cities.
About Megan Finnerty
Megan (Megan.Finnerty@gannett.com) is a journalist and storytelling consultant. Essentially, she’s a professional listener, who likes to talk. It’s complicated. She’s the director of the Storytellers Brand Studio, which curates and hosts live storytelling events for brands and nonprofits. And she’s the founder and director of the Storytellers Project, a nationwide series of live storytelling events from the USA TODAY Network. She’s coached thousands of people to share true, first-person stories. She graduated from Purdue University, and was a news features reporter at The Arizona Republic for 14 years. She feels strongly about feminism, cocktails, and NPR, and prefers a bold lip to a smoky eye.