Today’s guest post is written by Brad Marley.

You can’t tell a great story without great characters.

Charles Dickens knew it.

Stephen King knows it.

Heck, even the dude who wrote “A Million Little Pieces” beefed up his life story to make himself more interesting to his readers.

While the premise of a story might be the impetus to take a book off the shelf, it is the characters that keep you turning pages.

And this idea of having a strong cast of characters is just as important in PR, an industry that is quickly being transformed from a group of news release-pushers into one of storytellers.

On the General Motors environmental communications team, every blog post, every podcast, every news release we write is another chapter in the novel that is the GM sustainability story.

But we can’t come up with all of this content on our own. If we tried, it would quickly turn into fluff. And nobody wants that.

So we turn to our cast of characters inside the walls of GM who provide us with a majority of the content we push out on a daily basis.

Almost like how a reporter cultivates their sources, we reach out regularly to the experts to see what they are working on.

One of our environmental experts came up with the idea to turn oil-soaked booms from the Gulf of Mexico into parts for the Chevrolet Volt. He’s the manager of waste reduction efforts at GM. His job is to figure out how to reduce waste. And he doesn’t do this for a paycheck; he lives it.

During a recent phone conversation, he mentioned he was hauling a five gallon bucket of coffee grounds to his car. He was taking them home to use as bedding in his landscaping. His division has a coffee grounds recycling program in place that prevents 3,000 pounds of coffee grounds from becoming waste.

His off-the-cuff comment about the coffee grounds became a blog post.

But if I wasn’t in regular contact with him, that story never would have seen the light of day.

Our stable of experts also includes a woman who handles all matters related to wildlife habitats on the grounds of GM plants, as well as a guy who handles everything related to solar energy at GM facilities, just to name a few.

They are vital to the story because they keep it moving.

From a public relations perspective, you must start thinking about identifying those within your clients’ organizations who can advance the overall story, because that’s the future of public relations.

[Corny phrase alert!]

And the future is now.

Make the effort to meet with the experts. Take them out for coffee. Pick their brains. Find out what makes them tick.

You might be surprised to find out their job reflects their passions.

If that’s the case, the story will practically write itself.

Brad Marley works for Mullen Detroit and spends all of his billable time telling the GM sustainability story. You can find him on Twitter at @bradmarley and at his blog. He tries not to take himself too seriously.