Questions to Ask Yourself Before Writing Your Story: What’s Your Theme?

what-is-your-theme-5ws-tell-your-story-pam-marinoYou’ve probably heard of the “5 Ws” journalism students learn early on: “Who? What? When? Where? Why?” Often an “H” is added for “How?”. These questions help keep the writer focused on telling the story in a concise, straightforward way.

I have an additional set of “W” questions for writers, bloggers, and others who want or need to reach and influence readers. The first “W” in the sequence is: What’s your theme?

It sounds really basic, but I believe it’s a helpful practice to, as Steven Covey used to say, “Keep the end in mind.” What is your goal in sharing this story? Is it to inspire someone to take action, like giving a donation, signing up to volunteer, or write a letter to an elected official? Is it to sway your audience’s opinion? Is it to motivate someone to buy something, or click on a link?

In the same way we are encouraged in our professional lives to come up with elevator pitches to hook someone’s attention and explain what we’re about in just a couple of minute’s time, I encourage people with stories to tell to come up with their own one- or two-sentence theme (or goal, if you prefer) before they start to write. Read more

Meetup Encourages Bloggers Making a Difference

A few months ago I started The South Bay Blogging for Good Meetup in Cupertino. We’re an eclectic bunch of bloggers coming from different perspectives, but with one goal in mind, to make the world a better place through blogging.

Making a positive impact has always been the foremost interest of my firstSouth Bay Blogging for Good blog, Good Neighbor Stories. I launched it to share inspirational stories and helpful information for anyone wanting to contribute to the community.

It has been a wonderful experience getting to know so many awesome people and organizations through reporting for this blog, but it’s also a challenging one. Although blogging has been around for about two decades, it’s still an emerging medium, with lots of different ways to go about it. Starting a blog and maintaining it can lead to a lot of quandaries and questions.

I thought it would be helpful to bring together bloggers like me, folks who wanted to make a difference, so we could encourage and support one another in our blogging efforts. So far it’s been a great experience, and I think we’ve been able to share good information about blogging with each other.

The group is open to anyone in the South Bay who is blogging, or thinking about blogging, on topics that seek to make a difference. We meet the first Monday evening of each month at a Cupertino restaurant. Our next meeting is at 7 p.m., April 1. To find out more, join the meetup. It’s completely free.

If you know of anyone who might be helped by this group, please send them a link to this post.

Why You Should Have a Blog

blogs-blogging-blog-consulting-why-you-should-have-a-blog-pam-marinoYou—yes, You—should have a blog.

I wholeheartedly believe that many people, nonprofit organizations, and businesses, need blogs, even in the face of a blog barrage: some sources put the number of blogs in the world in excess of 181 million.

Despite all the voices already out there on the Internet, there is room for your unique voice. Not only that, it may be one of the most important ways for you, your organization, or business to get noticed in the world.

Who Should Have a Blog

Here’s a shortlist of who I think should have a blog (in no particular order):

  • Individuals who want to share their ideas, opinions, interests and hobbies with more than just Facebook friends.
  • Writers
  • Journalists
  • Photographers
  • Artists
  • Musicians
  • Consultants
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Small businesses
  • Basically anyone who has a product or service to sell. Read more

Expert Shares Secrets to Great (Possibly Viral) Content

Great content that will drive unique visitors to your blog from social media is not hard to find or amy-vernon-expert-shares-secrets-to-Great-Possibly-Viral-Content-pam-marino-blogging-contentcreate, if you use a few of the “secrets” revealed by journalist and blogging/social media expert Amy Vernon, in a webinar I listened in on recently.

Vernon was the presenter in Week 1, of a free 3-part series for bloggers hosted by “The Traffic Professor”, Bill Belew. The second installment is at 12 noon (PDST), this Wednesday, March 13; it’s called, “Grow Your Subscriber Base: Email and RSS for Your Business With Phil Hollows.” Belew is presenting on improving blog traffic on March 20.

Here are some of the ideas Vernon shared with us for finding stories for your blog:

  • Set up a Google alert for your blog topics – this was an excellent reminder, and I immediately updated my Google alert list.
  • Search for what people are saying about your niche right now by doing Twitter searches.
  • StumbleUpon is a great source; continually stumble the appropriate categories. Read more

How to Use Facebook Effectively

Ritu-Sharma-social-media-for-nonprofits-how-to-use-facebook-effectively-pam-marino-good-neighbor-storiesNote: This is a version of a story I originally published on Good Neighbor Stories.

With social media bringing a giant wave of change to society, nonprofit leaders who felt as if it was all about to crash down on them instead learned ways to ride the wave to success at a 2012  Social Media for Nonprofits Conference.

I attended the day-long event at the Microsoft Conference Center in Mountain View with about 300 others representing dozens of local nonprofits. Some of the people I spoke with before the conference said they felt overwhelmed at times by a dizzying array of social media sites, new apps and technologies.

Ritu Sharma, executive director of Social Media for Nonprofits, and Darian Rodriguez Heyman, co-founder and head of external partnerships, as well as author of Nonprofit Management 101: A Complete and Practical Guide for Leaders and Professionals, brought an impressive lineup of speakers from Facebook, LinkedIn, Eventbrite,, and others, including Beth Kanter, an influential blogger and co-author of The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting With Social Media to Drive Change.

“We didn’t realize when we started out that there’s no other conference series in the country focused on social media for social good, so there really is a gap out there that we are doing our best to fill,” Heyman said, to a round of applause.

By the end of the day, some of the same people I spoke to at the start said the conference gave them the confidence to navigate social media more effectively.

Although the conference was geared for nonprofit leaders, the techniques taught by the various speakers could apply to any business or blog.

In this post I focus primarily on Facebook. Links to other aspects covered at the conference are below.

Libby Leffler, Strategic Partnerships, Facebook

“Increasingly we find that causes and nonprofit organizations that people connect with are among some of the most personal things that they ever connect with on Facebook,” said Libby Leffler at the top of her presentation. “Which is why it’s really important why all of you have a real presence on Facebook, as well.” Read more

Nonprofits Must Get Good at Social Media

nonprofit-social-media-posting-guide-nonprofits-must-get-good-at-social-media-pam-marinoNote: A version of this post originally ran on my website, Good Neighbor Stories.

I’ve shared some of the things I learned from attending the Social Media for Nonprofits Conference in Mountain View in 2012, like how nonprofits can best use Facebook, Eventbrite, and LinkedIn. There was plenty more info jam packed into the conference, but here’s one of my final takeaways: nonprofits have to get good at social media.

As the editor of Good Neighbor Stories, I’m on what I affectionately call the “do gooder beat,” because I talk to numerous nonprofit leaders who are doing good in the world. One of the consistent threads I notice between all small nonprofits is that the leaders are overwhelmed, and often social media is at the bottom of the to do list.

But the numbers are clear, social media engagement is only going to grow, especially since children and youth are growing up embracing the social media lifestyle. Meaning, future volunteers, supporters and leaders are hanging out in the social media space, so if nonprofits aren’t hanging out there, too, they’re missing out on a  huge segment of the population. Read more

About Me

I am a journalist, freelance writer, editor, and web content provider in Silicon Valley, where I was born and raised. In 2010 I started my own website, Good Neighbor Stories, which covers San Francisco Bay Area people and organizations making positive contributions to their communities, and the world at large.

Currently I am available for reporting and writing assignments, editing, web content, blog guest posts, and social media and blog consulting for anyone feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of getting started.


From a very young age I had an intense interest in journalism and politics. I started reading the newspaper at age seven, and by 12 I wanted to be a reporter. At San Diego State University I majored in political science, and minored in journalism, spending most of my time outside of class and studying at The Daily Aztec. I started as a reporter covering student government and moved up to city editor,  then editor-in-chief. In my senior year I interned in the San Diego Bureau of The Los Angeles Times.

As a professional reporter I covered city and county governments, elections, courts, police, as well as human interest topics. Read more

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