Asda newsdesk story discovery supports authentic PR engagement

Asda newsdesk story discovery supports authentic PR engagement

A UK supermarket uses a combination of process, technology and editorial nous to identify stories from across a national organisation.

By Tony Cuthbertson

In any organisation there are thousands of inspiring day-to-day stories waiting to be discovered in the conversations and interactions between their customers and employees.

But how do PR teams go about the task of tracking down, developing and sharing these genuine stories?

In most cases they don’t. The stories go undiscovered.

At IMP Media we work with brands who recognise the power of these stories – and give them a systematic way to discover them. We do it through a combination of in-house developed software and good old-fashioned storytelling and journalistic skills.

We’ve been helping Asda’s PR team with a strategic programme to showcase the uniquely warm relationship between Asda colleagues and customers – and Asda stores’ commitment to make a difference in their local communities.

We do it through storytelling.

But it’s not the PR team telling stories in an attempt to get them picked up by traditional media. It's Asda customers and colleagues telling their own stories that can be shared on social media – prompting more people to share their own positive stories about Asda.

Story gathering via Asda newsdesk

Every week we uncover heart-warming stories from customers and colleagues that get an incredible reaction on Facebook. Head to the Asda Facebook page and you’ll see just how much people love reading these stories.

The stories can be anything from store colleagues helping to reunite a child with a toy lost in store, to customers describing an act of kindness that made a big difference to them, or someone who’s overcome the odds to secure a job with Asda and become hugely popular with customers.

What they all have in common is they pack an emotional punch. They’re what journalists call human interest stories.

Asda’s story workflow

Storyfinder is a newsdesk tool created by IMP. It’s a means of news to story gathering from around a national or international organisation and making decisions about which stories to develop as part of a PR campaign.

Community champions in Asda stores around the UK submit photos and stories via a mobile phone app. These are collated and displayed on a centralised newsdesk. The web environment displays content in a card format. It’s a useful way of spotting issues, trends, and themes.

A managing editor working on behalf of Asda’s corporate communications team decides which stories to develop for social media and traditional media.

Case study: sourcing stories from a nationwide network

Leonie Samways, the community champion at Asda in Chatham, Kent, used the Storyfinder app to upload a photo of her colleague Joe. She said everyone at the store was extremely proud of Joe, who has had to overcome the odds since childhood, fighting a serious illness that left him with learning difficulties and struggling to find a job.


The Asda editorial team spotted Leonie’s post and used the Storyfinder tools to follow up the story with her. They interviewed Joe and arranged to get more photos of him working in the store and with his mum Pauline, who talked about how much he loved his job and how much it had boosted his confidence.


The story – and photo of Joe and his mum outside the store – got a phenomenal response when it was posted on Asda Facebook page, generating more than 30,000 positive reactions, shares and comments.

Asda uses a small budget to boost these posts’ reach – particularly in the local area – and the viral effect of all the comments and shares push them into many more people’s newsfeeds.

This particular post reached 2.2 million people – and was followed up by local media in news articles that were largely a cut-and-paste of the full story on the Asda news and blogs page.

Storyfinder workflow

Here’s the story-finding process that we use to generate a regular flow of stories from across an organisation such as Asda.

#1 Listen to your frontline teams

They are the eyes and ears of your organisation and are best placed to hear about inspiring or heart-warming stories. Make it easy for them to share these nuggets or germs of story ideas – Asda gives each of its community champions in their stores a smartphone and a simple app to share ideas, photos and updates.

#2 Give examples of what you’re looking for

What’s an amazing story to one person is often a day job for another. Set the barrier low and give examples of little nuggets of conversation that have previously developed into inspiring stories on social media.

#3 Editorial experience

You need people who know how to listen, sift large quantities of information, glean insights, and ask questions that lead to the kind of stories that grab people’s attention on social media. It takes patience and skill – and the right kind of tools and technology.

#4 Cultivate the natural advocates and storytellers in your organisation

You’ll find some people are just a constant source of great stories, so nurture them. Keep in touch and ask them what’s happening in their world.

#5 Ask questions

Stories don’t usually fall into your lap as complete stories. You find them by asking questions. In a chat with someone who’s sent in an interesting photo they might drop in a throwaway remark.

#6 Heart-warming photos

Ask for photos – a great picture of smiling customers or colleagues works well on social. It’s what makes people stop as they’re scrolling through their newsfeeds.

#7 Listen to what customers and colleagues are saying on social media

Time invested here is a potential gold mine, but it’s something that takes resource and perseverance. You won’t unearth the best quotes and story leads with a quick search of Twitter or Instagram.

#8 Community management

Listen and engage with the comments. Often people will say things that turn in to your next great story.

About Tony Cuthbertson

Tony is the co-founder of digital engagement agency, IMP Media. Tony started IMP in 2006 after a long career in media and technology. He’s passionate about the use technology in the creative businesses as well as exploring the theory and practice of great idea generation.  

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