For most of us these days the weather to a lot colder. And, when the thermometer mercury starts dropping below freezing it’s the time of year we here at your community newspaper start heating up and commence to work on an annual favorite section.
Progress is the perfect way to introduce (or re-introduce) your business to our readers.
Some have asked me why we named a section “Progress?” I think because it’s an action word. It’s an action word that is a positive word, too. By the time January and February come around people in these parts are ready to move forward, onward towards the destination known as spring. We are ready to get out in the yard, work in the garden or do home repair. We are ready to spend our hard-earned money again. We have moved from overcast days, snow and zero degree weather to feeling the sun on our faces. We have made Progress.
Every January for the past 50 or so years we start to sign up local businesses for our annual Progress section to be published in March. Believe me when I say it is a huge undertaking. In this section local business people not only market their goods and services, they also get the opportunity to tell their story. It’s a favorite for business owners and readers alike. I’m a firm believer that most folks like to do business with other folks. For the most part people don’t do business with a building. People like people and with this Progress section business owners get to connect with our readers with pictures of themselves and employees and a story they can write, or one of our editorial team members write.
Back in the day before computers, our reporters would scour the local business landscape and get the stories. Some stories were short, 50 to 100 words. Some were over a half page long. We would print off all these stories, trim off the excess white paper with scissors leaving only a “text block,” run these trimmed pieces of paper with the stories on them through a machine called the hot waxer and individually place stories and pictures on layout pages. The layout pages were the same size as two pages in our newspaper. The hot waxer put wax on the back of the paper and allowed us to “stick” the stories down on the page and if needed, pull it back off with tweezers and replace it somewhere else.
The entire editorial staff would come in on weekends to layout the section. Sometimes we would need a picture made bigger, or smaller. So, we’d go in the dark room, find the negative, put it in the enlarger and print off a picture to size. Sometimes a picture wasn’t available so we would send someone out to take a picture. They’d bring back the film, we would develop it and make a print. It was a mini party-like atmosphere, with scissors, tweezers, copious amounts of coffee, laughter and yes — the cuss words which were used. I’m glad my mother wasn’t there.
We usually had pizza and drinks after.
These days, we have progressed. We have computers and layout is done on these. Everything is straight and everything looks neat and clean. Everything today is so much more readable. Thank goodness for these computers!
Over the years readers have written to me and shared their ideas on stories we can write – more times than not they want to read about what businesses are in their town. They want to know who the owners are. They want to see what these owners look like and what these businesses offer. Again, people like doing business with other people and yes, business owners are people, too.
When I work with business folk for these stories many times the business folk aren’t sure what to say. I try to make it easy for them. Readers want to know your story, I tell them. How did you get in business, how long have you been in business, why do you like doing business in this community, what challenges have you faced this past year, what are you looking forward to this year? People (readers) want to know about your employees – are they family members, is there a long-standing employee that should be highlighted, how many employees do you have, and how many local kids do you employ?
I usually also ask the business owner to take a second to thank their employees publicly (it helps build morale) and to thank the community for their support. Sometimes business owners don’t want their pictures taken (few people do) and they say, “Let’s just run a picture of my sign,” or “Just use a picture of the building.”
I always go back to my mantra of “People like to do business with people, not buildings or signs.” Get a picture of people for your Progress story. Progress pictures are an easy way to give staff recognition, too.
So, to those who suggested we write business stories, I say, “We are! But, you’ll have to wait until March to read ‘em.” To business owners in town, I say, “Please contact us to be a part of our Progress section.”
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Send your thoughts and comments to DontRushDon@gmail.com