Posted on: January 29, 2021
By: Bill Atkinson

In The Sixth Sense a young boy named Cole Sear delivers these chilling words: “I see dead people.”

That line came to mind during a recent walk through, of all places, a cemetery. No, I don’t see dead people, but what I do see are stories. I view everything I see or hear through the prism of one question: Would it make a great story?

And it was among the dead in Prospect Hill Cemetery in Towson on a crisp windy day that this revelation hit home. What I concluded during that walk with PHC executives and guides Carolyn Knott and Ginger Galvez was that even this 129-year-old year cemetery was a great story that had to be told. Here is the rationale:

  • News hook: First, the story had a ready-made news hook: Its 125-year-old copper beech tree was slated for the axman’s blade. No getting around it, the tree was sick and dropping branches on York Road. We looked at the tree as the vehicle to tell the broader story of the cemetery.
  • Freshness: Although the cemetery has been around since 1892 many people still didn’t know it existed even though it is the final resting place for the founders of Towson. Oddly, this rich history added a freshness to the story because it has been the best kept secret.
  • Unusual: There were quirky elements to the story, too. Not only is the cemetery across the street from a bustling mall and next door to WTMD radio station, but it is also the final resting place for Baltimore filmmaker John Waters’ infamous character “Divine,” also known as Harris Glenn Milstead.
  • Positivity: And although the tree would meet its demise it would continue to live on because its wood was donated to woodworking company Sandtown Furniture.

It is hard to sleep at night when so many exciting elements come together in a single story. So, we told our tale and witnessed results: positive news coverage in The Sun, TV and other media, a gathering with local politicians, residents and board members, donations, visibility and a dedication from County Executive Johnny O – “Historic Prospect Hill Cemetery Week.”

Nick Morgan, author of Power Cues, got it right when he told the Harvard Business Review in a 2014 interview that business executives “won’t be heard unless they’re telling stories.”

Stories, he said, create “’sticky’ memories by attaching emotions to things that happen.”

It is true, businesses all too often ignore the power of story. Most don’t even know they have stories that are waiting to be told. Telling your story can drive reputation, bring in clients, attract talent, increase clicks to your blog or website, and in some cases, spur positive change.

So, tell your story … before it is too late.