Stephen V. Smith

Smith forges partnerships across the region to help rural telecommunications companies tell their stories

Founder & President of WordSouth | Rainsville, Alabama

QuoteThere is power in a good story. That’s a truth I saw played out hundreds of times in my days as a reporter for a small-town newspaper. Good stories have the power to shape people’s perspective, change their minds, and move them to action.

Storytelling is really the heart of content marketing, the idea that a company can meet its goals by informing, educating, and engaging its customers through stories. We launched WordSouth 17 years ago to help rural utilities identify, shape, and relate the stories of the great work they do.

As market forces and regulatory shifts change the rules for cooperative and independent telecommunications companies, WordSouth has found itself in a position to bring great value to the industry. We launched our first custom magazine for a telco [telephone company] in 1996, and through the years have helped several rural telephone companies publish small bimonthly magazines to send to their customers. We spent much of 2012 developing plans for a larger publication. Along with our project partner TMS [Telecom Management Services], we visited telcos across the Southeast to share the idea with them. In January, we published the first-ever regional telco magazine designed to help these companies share content while achieving significant economies of scale in an effort spanning several states.

There are 10 telcos across Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, and South Carolina participating in the regional telco magazine, with several others considering the project for their 2014 budget year. These magazines do more than share information about the telephone, Internet, and television services offered by these telcos: they deliver stories of how these services improve quality of life. For example, readers learn how the broadband Internet access provided by their telco is connecting families with loved ones across the country, increasing access to education through distance learning and helping small businesses compete.

For us, it’s about more than offering a service. Yes, we bring professional journalists and designers to the project and manage the printing and distribution components for our clients. But everyone at WordSouth truly believes in the mission of these companies we’ve partnered with—after all, we live in rural America, too, and we share their passion for what technology is accomplishing in rural communities.

It all starts with a story. And for WordSouth, our story is that we get to do what we love every day, while helping great companies communicate the real difference they are making in communities across the Southeast.  Quote