Tag Archives: engagement

News engagement lab launches

After many months of preparation, I’m excited to have finally launched the news engagement lab, a new course I created to help students learn and practice the concepts and techniques of news engagement.

I know. I know. “Engagement.” It’s a term that everyone seems to be talking about these days. Some refer to it as a “buzz word.” What does it even mean? For me, I view it as an important process that goes hand-in-hand with reporting, writing, editing and other journalism skills that we teach.

2015-11-05_1452Sure, the act of engagement isn’t really new. Efforts to engage audiences have been around for as long as news has. Today, though, in the digital realm, engagement takes on new meaning — and importance. News organizations have so many technological ways to engage and measure — and they desperately need to reach out to audiences in order to stay viable and relevant.

I wanted to teach students this new process through hands-on experiences. So I was fortunate enough to partner with the fine folks at NET, Nebraska’s statewide public broadcasting entity. Students in the course will be conducting audience research, creating social media content and developing engagement strategies for two NET long-range news projects.

Should be an interesting experiment! We plan to document everything we do so we can share our findings with others. And because I am using the class as the focus of a  course portfolio for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Peer Review of Teaching program, I’ll be doing a lot of documenting of and reflecting on my teaching methods as part of my inquiry. The course portfolio will be published later in the summer.

UPDATE: Link to course portfolio.

I’m always happy to share. I wouldn’t be teaching this course had it not been for the  many people passionate about engagement who have shared their expertise, research, best practices — and enthusiasm.  You can learn from them as well; their writings make up the reading list for the class, which you can find in the syllabus.

 

 

 

 

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Story seeding: Harnessing the power of the public

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how the media could leverage the expertise and interests of the public via social media long before a story is published.

What I imagine goes beyond standard crowd sourcing. I envision a strategic effort in which reporters and editors reach out to the public early on to identify sources, issues, anecdotes, etc. I hadn’t really thought much about what to call this plan, but after reading a recent social media marketing article, I now have a descriptive name for it: seeding.

Here’s how strategic seeding might work in a big project:

Finding/engaging sources

Reporters assigned to the project would develop robust RSS feeds and Twitter lists to develop better expertise on the topic and to determine valuable and credible sources. Once a valuable source is identified, reporters should start interacting with them through social media. The beauty of social media interaction is that it is transparent — so, for example, folks following the identified sources also would learn about the reporting project and join in on the conversation. 

Creating an ongoing blog

Creating a reporting blog about the project would be serve as a central place where interested people would monitor updates about the project and contribute to the conversation. I envision the public working alongside reporters as the reporters start to develop stories and angles. This blog could become a forum where reporters could toss out an idea and get helpful feedback. Essentially, through the blog, the media organization shares with the online world what it is doing and encourages involvement. The blog would be RSS-enabled so interested people could receive updates with each new post.

The blog posts should be written for the audience that the outlet is trying to engage and develop. These posts should offer new information or insights. The goal is to get this new online community talking — and to solicit its help.

Engaging the community

Publicizing the blog is important so that new sources and interests are continually brought in to the conversation. Creating a separate Twitter account to tweet out new blog posts might be helpful. It also could serve as a “news source” for the issue. For example, when a reporter reads an interesting post from a blog, she could tweet that to the account.

Other ways to get engagement on the blog:

  • Have reporters/editors comment on the blogs of others who have expertise or interest in the area. 
  • Have reporters/editors participate in Twitter and/or Facebook discussions, constantly sending out a link to the blog.
  • Mention the blog prominently on the outlet’s home page. 

If the online engagement becomes vigorous, reporters get valuable insight on the topic –- how to frame it, how to develop and pursue specific angles, how to develop stories and how to cultivate and identify sources.

This type of reporting strategy would work well for big issues, on-going stories and investigative pieces. Of course, devoting the time and energy for such an endeavor might be a hard sell in many newsrooms.

I’ll talk more about why I think this strategy would be beneficial for news organizations in a subsequent post.