Four Steps Needed to Develop the Winning Story Idea

Erickson Family Texas Parks & Wildlife winners
Erickson Family at Palmetto State Park

It is always nice to win. To be the Grand Prize Winner is even better! That’s the position I found myself in recently when the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department announced the winners of their TPWD Story Idea Contest.  My story idea “Snorkel Texas” won and more than that:

“The TV show producers all found your story idea to be unique, something we had never thought of before, accessible to many people, and fitting exactly into the goals of Texas Parks & Wildlife.”

Was I surprised?  To be honest, not really. Generating ideas, outlining broad directives, and publishing finished stories has been a part of my career (and life) for over 15 years now. Much of this has become routine and a bit formulaic to the extent that intuition just kicks in and takes over.  Additionally, I have a great time thinking creatively and injecting memorable moments into day-to-day marketing efforts.


The Texas Parks and Wildlife challenge to citizens of Texas was as follows:

“In 250 words or less, tell us a story idea you would like to see featured on the award-winning TPW Television series. Tell us why you’d like to see it covered, and why you think our viewers will enjoy it.”

This criteria above differs little from criteria used in B2B story pitches and online posts.  As marketing leaders, your CEO or VP of Product Management has probably asked for something like this:

“I need a 250 word pitch for a speaking opportunity at our annual trade show”

“I need a 200 word pitch for our new product launch – we need the press to cover this”

“I need ideas for my weekly blog post…my LinkedIn update… the company Twitter feed . . .etc.”


To generate good story ideas, kick-start the process with a simple formula based on your current audience and Buyer’s Journey (read: Healthy Marketing Habits). Remember, we already have “the challenge” outlined for us.

  • Spend a few minutes brainstorming.
    • Write down all ideas and leave space to review and insert notes.
  • Spend a few minutes developing initial and relevant questions.
    • First thoughts are important. They surface to the top quickly (no snorkeling pun intended!) because of your intuition. Trust it…then verify (next step).
    • For each idea ask about the audience, the Buyer’s Journey location, a link to past content. Questions will begin to surface that are unique to each idea.  
  • Then quickly spend some time researching and answering questions that come up.
    • Who is the expert in your organization who can confirm an assumption?  What customer input do you need for thought leadership? Is that customer available?
    • Answering questions might also modify or introduce new ideas to the brainstorm. It’s OK to add more story ideas during this process.
  • Finally, draw a conclusion and make a decision.  
    • This is the start – outlining the story – so draw a conclusion and decide which direction you want to take this project. Now get to work!  Adjustments will be made along the way and that’s expected.  No paralysis by analysis here – trust your gut and go for it!


In today’s hyper-noise-filled space, creating stories that resonate with your audience along different points of their Journey is necessary. Stories communicate. Tell the right story to the right people and you will capture attention and enlighten the audience. Along the way, you can also persuade and entertain. Do this right and your reader will remember, and maybe more important in today’s world  – they will share your story with others.

Thanks for celebrating this small win with me and Hill Country Advisors.  Contact us  today for a conversation about your marketing needs and to get started with our own brainstorming session.

2 thoughts on “Four Steps Needed to Develop the Winning Story Idea

  1. Congratulations on your win! These steps could well be the four steps to success in any area of life. It helps to see every marketing project as a 250 words or less or challenge. Paralysis by analysis is an obstacle that I have faced many times and I know I must trust my gut instincts; your four steps make it easier to do just that.

  2. Nice and concise Christian–thanks for this encouraging reminder. I’m saving your bullet points as a resource and will refer to them as a guide moving forward. Additionally, congrats on the win! As we all know, everything is bigger in Texas and this was a nice win for you.

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