Community building

The power of authentic, community partnerships

📍 Vancouver, BC - As a former journalist and publisher, I’ve seen the way the pandemic has taken a toll on news reporting—there’s a firehose of information being shared but the quality is missing. While there’s a lot of information out there, how much of it actually matters to your community? Chances are, not a lot of it. This has resulted in a disconnect between people and the place they live. 


The numbers add up locally


A study from Whitman Insight Strategies and Creative Circle found that 33% of those polled are turning to new sources of information as a result of the pandemic and local news is among the most coveted news sources. 


Despite the demand, there simply aren't enough local news outlets—and the ones that do exist don’t have the resources to be their best. According to the Project Oasis report, 1 in 7 outlets operate in news deserts where the traditional media source has closed or been neglected, often by a parent corporation focused on unsustainable margins without careful support and investment on the community level. 


Independent news entrepreneur Chris Sopher, CEO and founder of local US newsletter network Whereby.Us, put it best when he once told me, “The local information ecosystem is broken… It’s about a lack of connective tissue between residents, city movements, and issues that bind them to a place.”


His insight perfectly articulated what I’ve seen happen over more than two decades of observing, advising, and working in the media. 


We all have our interests —food, travel, environmentalism—and consume media that bring us closer to those communities, but our geographic pride hasn’t been nearly as celebrated or stoked. 


There are increasingly fewer places that inform, investigate, spotlight, and rally the very communities we spend most of our lives in. This disconnect and opportunity inspired me to join Overstory on its mission to help build more resilient communities through trusted, fact-based journalism, and thought-provoking storytelling. To strengthen those bonds that Sopher referred to. Afterall, what’s worth protecting and nurturing more than the places our kids play, our rent and mortgage gets invested, and that we call home?


Opportunity is hiding in plain sight


Big things happen in the smallest places, but they’re often overlooked for national headlines. Traditional media institutions are struggling to adapt to audience preferences and without a local presence they can’t tap into the conversations that bind communities. Consequently, traditional news organizations face shrinking profits and further disinvestments in local stories. 


At Overstory, we’re doing things differently. For us, the path to building community trust is through telling great stories, creating real human connections, and engaging with our audience. We’re unique in that our journalists, audience development, and revenue teams all deeply understand the needs and quirks of the communities we’re in. It’s one of the advantages my team has had over the past year. 


All good partnerships start with trust


When it comes to partnerships, we’ve led each collaboration with this ethos: partner with businesses and organizations who believe in community just as much as we do. With community as our guiding principle, we’ve been able to create lean campaigns that have had a big impact. 


Here’s how.


  1. Giving back to the community


Last holiday season, a group of local entrepreneurs and avid readers of Capital Daily, our Greater Victoria publication, wanted to super-charge their philanthropy with only two weeks left in the year. Aiming to unite around a shared cause, Capital Daily asked readers to first match the $50,000 put up by business donors. When this total was matched in less than a week, Capital Daily sought out more benefactors and, by Dec. 31, hit our $75,000 match that totalled $150,000 raised towards local families. This ended up being a Top 5 fundraiser for the community United Way and has become an annual collaboration with our readers.


  1. Contextualizing a bigger business story


When the South Island Prosperity Partnership needed to communicate the importance of their upcoming regional business summit, they partnered with Capital Daily’s network of four local news publications and podcasts to frame the summit’s conversations in a way that resonated with citizens. Capital Daily stories were cited as inspirations for panels and our managing editor moderated the event to further drive home the relevance and urgency. The result was record registration for both the in-person and virtual event. 


  1. Shining a light on small businesses at their darkest hours


Tasting Victoria, Overstory’s Vancouver Island food and drink brand, has been the local food authority for years and operated on a display and social media marketing advertising model. A few months ago, we decided to shine an additional spotlight on local restaurants hit hard by the pandemic, courtesy of  those who love them the most, through annual best-in-the-city awards. The awards were sponsored by local business owners and we are anticipating half a million visits to the award microsite over the next year, as well as 10,000+ downloads of the PDF guide that will help build Tasting Victoria’s 17,000-strong newsletter subscriber list.


These are just a few examples among the many success stories of the last year. We hope to continue connecting readers back to the places they live, work, and play by helping them find common ground through the stories in their community.


Our engaged and active subscriber-base are always looking to support locally-minded organizations that share in our mission to build community. If you’re interested in connecting, reach out to me at tom@omgmedia.com.