Telling Great Stories Through Adversity
Telling Great Stories Through Adversity

Vice President J.D. Miller explains his road to NLA.

You are live in 3 - 2 - 1.  The lights are up, the teleprompter is scrolling and you have the great responsibility to educate your viewers on the news of the day. Once that gets into your system, it never leaves. The adrenaline rush of getting the story first. The excitement of crafting the piece, checking references and breaking the news.

I spent the first half of my career in a newsroom and on camera with Fox, CBS and NBC affiliates. I had the pleasure of interviewing leaders, celebrities and sports stars. Working under pressure while crafting a great story is something makes up the newsroom atmosphere. You also quickly learn how to deal with adversity. Some expected, some unnerving like what I experienced in 1995 while working at a CBS station in Iowa. It was a beautiful June morning when I entered the station. There was a somber hush over the reporters and producers as we quickly learned that our friend and news anchor Jodi Huisentruit was abducted on her way to work that morning. The weight of the news was overwhelming. The worst part - we had to report on our missing colleague with our newsroom full of police and FBI agents. We had the tremendous burden and responsibility of telling the story to our viewers the best way we could without letting emotions cloud the reporting. That was 21 years ago and it sticks with me as we still await news of what happened to our missing colleague.

I spent five years at that station and later worked at an NBC affiliate before moving over to public relations and marketing. I have carried the lessons I learned about the importance of well-crafted stories to corporate communications. First, while working at a non-profit, media relations experience became extremely valuable as the office dealt with a carbon monoxide poisoning. Over a dozen of us were admitted to the hospital with poisoning from a construction mishap in the building. I vividly remember sitting in that hospital bed writing a press release to ease the mind of donors about the non-profit.

Obviously, news doesn’t have to be tragic. It can also be exhilarating to share amazing stories and interesting data. As the Director of Marketing and Communications in Comcast’s advertising technology division, I had plenty of opportunities to tell brand stories. I’d like to think we made advertising tech “cool” through building an index that followed advertising trends and where the big dollars were being spent. That quarterly index was covered in publications from the Wall Street Journal to USA Today and even on CNBC and Bloomberg - and it’s still being used today as a benchmark of the advertising industry.

The jobs I had after being on air were different from a newsroom, but the core drivers were still there. Tight deadlines, managed storytelling and audience buy in. Instead of having my viewers as the target, the tables are now turned and reporters are my focus at No Limit Agency. Having sat on the other side of the phone, I have a better idea of what a reporter wants. I know what is newsworthy to them and what is also a waste of time. Often times, PR professionals have clients that say their new product is fantastic or a promotion they are about to launch belongs as the top story of the day. Products and promotions can grab headlines from time to time, but often they don’t even get mentioned on the news or in the paper. The people behind the products and their stories are what is most compelling to reporters. At No Limit Agency, it is energizing that our franchise clients have those stories. We have franchisees that have great life experiences that have gotten them to a point where they want to open a franchise. I love that we get to share those stories.

I often think about the Iowa newsroom that June morning and also that non-profit during the incident. I think about the great responsibility of proper reporting. I am proud to work at an organization that values great storytelling and is client-focused through the good and bad, every step of the way, to help brands and the people behind them.