Getting your story on the digital map

When people hear the word transparency, they think of information that organizations or individuals (Donald Trump, in the case of his federal tax returns) are loath to disclose on one side, and that media, hackers and others are trying to pry loose on the other.

The truth is, transparency can also be about organizations – or communities, events and actions – getting the attention they deserve in our increasingly connected, but also increasingly crowded and distracted media landscape.

If you are looking to attract a bit more attention to your deserving organization or event, and don’t have a megaphone marketing budget (nonprofits and social enterprises take note), below are five tips to keep in mind. I’ve used this story in the Guardian about Vila Autódromo – the favela that made headlines during the Rio Olympics and again recently when it was left off an official city map – to show how you can increase your odds of being heard.

1) Find the great story.

Yes, there are some stories that naturally scream more than others –  I say find “the” great story because there are powerful stories everywhere. You just have to look hard enough and close enough, as ever good reporter knows. It also helps to know the elements of a powerful narrative – some of which the story of  Vila Autódromo had.

2) Look for the global connection.

By global, I mean connection to something larger than the immediate event. Vila Autódromo captured the world’s attention because it was more than a story over a local land grab. It’s a fight over fairness and equality, between the rich and the powerless. That is a universal narrative that captures readers, and inspires large companies, like Google in the case of Vila Autódromo, to act.

3) Use names of people, organizations and events recognizable to your audience.

Social injustice takes place every day. Vila Autódromo’s location and timing around the Rio Olympics – one of the biggest, most widely watched sports events in the world – is what captured global media attention. This was followed by the connection in the Guardian’s follow-up story to Tech companies, such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft.

4) Connect the story to current trends.

Tech and digital mapping – these are are trends touched on in Vila Autódromo’s story and that are in the news constantly. That means events connecting back to them are more likely to be in the news too.

5) Persistence.

Months after the Olympics, the residents of this favela again captured the attention for their cause by just posting an update on their group Facebook page saying “Vila Autódromo is here, yes! Counting us out of the maps produced by the City Council is divisive and antisocial.” They clearly also made sure the right people were following them. 

Few people think of the key pieces of their story before looking to pitch or post, but many wonder why their efforts are drowned by the noise. If you think that your cause deserves attention, take time to think about smart ways you can get it on the map.  

Photograph: Facebook

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