I’m a huge fan of driving engagement by getting the community involved.
I have always argued that there are more folks on the ground than reporters, and often they can tell their story better than any outsider can.
Case in point: The @UW_Cameras twitter account from United Way Ottawa, where I work. United Way Ottawa gave some of the agencies it funds a wifi-enabled iPhone (dubbed a ‘community camera’) and gave access to this twitter account. We then asked them to show the world how they are changing lives on a daily basis.
The photos are stunning, and they tell a story better than we at United Way ever could. Take a look:
Publishing content has never been this easy, companies no longer have to rely on traditional media to get their message out.
Whether you’re publishing content as a company or an individual, there are a few fundamentals to keep in mind.
1. Know your audience
Who are you writing for? This is the first and most important step towards designing content to appeal to that audience. Take the highly-coveted world of the ‘mommy blogger.’ Pampers has created ‘Mommy Corner’, with lots of parenting tips for newbie parents. The site offers tips on how to get babies to sleep through the night, what to do with your toddler on a rainy day, cooking with your child… and coupons and explanations of its full product line.
BONUS: Get your audience to join in, and create its own content! Lots of sites have an active community of writers, looking to get their voice out to a wider audience. Involve your audience in the discussion, and watch your web traffic grow as they share with their networks.
Not the nebula taken by the Hubble you see beside this post, but more micro than that. This space. This blog.
What do I want this blog to be? For the past five years I’ve blogged mostly about journalism under the blog name ‘Journomel.com’.
(At the end of October, I’m retiring that URL, replacing it with the name you see at the top of this page. I know, original.)
Maybe this space suffered an identity crisis? After 16 years in newsrooms, I’m now a ‘Communications professional’ – someone called me that to my face the other day , so I guess it must be true – and now I’m left wondering how best to use this space. For months, I’ve written nothing. Not-so-deep space, you might say.
But here’s the thing – I’m writing, editing, producing and storytelling more than ever. My life has always been, and continues to be, about content.
I’ve been telling stories since I was two. Sure, at that time I was developing plot lines around my best/imaginary friend Cheeky, who was the most dynamic character you’d ever imagine. But from there I was writing short stories and poems in grade school, columns for the town paper in high school and I never looked back from the student newspaper office in university.
And who doesn’t love a good story? Who doesn’t love examining how content can make its audience react? How simple letters/words/video/visuals can move us?
I’m going to be talking about amazing digital content here people.
If you haven’t got me interested with your your first sentence, I’m out.
I’m fickle, ruthless and impatient with online content. And I’m not alone.
Journalists have always known the importance of snappy headlines and crafting a lead that makes a reader want to know more.
That’s why most stories written are in an ‘inverted pyramid’ style, with the most pressing information at the top and less information (traditionally it could be cut from a printed page) at the bottom.
But I also find it interesting that during conversations I’ve had with people (journalists, politicos, public relations/communications professionals) about social media, they think Twitter first. There’s no doubt that there are some key influencers on Twitter.
I knew the risks in 2011 when I went to work for a company owned by hedge funds. And I knew the risks in 2012 when I turned down an attractive offer from a family-owned newspaper company to stay with the company owned by hedge funds.
All this makes the j-school students I teach, the journalists of the future, nervous.
Journalism is an art that requires practice. I tell students it is a muscle, and like athletes they are training.
Yes, this means endless writing, but it also means feeding the curiosity that comes so naturally to all journalists. You wake up with questions, ask more questions throughout the day and even when you drag your sorry self to bed… still, more questions.
Learning more about where you live, and the people who make up your city is a way to start answering these questions.
At the same time, journalists are always curious about new tools to find and tell sotries.
The training in journalism never ends – reporters who have been in the business more than a decade will remember ‘training days/courses’ (I was once sent on a fabulous week-long course in D.C. called ‘Managing the 24/7 newsroom’ at the American Press Institute).
These days, however, skills are self-taught, or learned through support networks with colleagues who have figured out something new and are willing to pass along the knowledge.
When I ask journalists (and communications professionals) what they’d like to learn next, they often tell me they’d like to become more comfortable with ‘Big data.’ To them I say, roll up your sleeves and get started. It’s time to work some muscle. You have to just do it. (Getting comfortable with spreadsheets is a start.)
When examining social media data, the greatest understanding isn’t during a “Eureka!” moment, Sterne said.
Rather, more can be gained from asking “That’s funny… I wonder why that happened?”
Just as in journalism, asking the right question will help you understand the story more fully.
Quite a few times during Sterne’s talk, I found many parallels between social media analytics and things we practice naturally in journalism.
Sterne spoke of intuition, and this need for understanding as important as intelligence and knowledge when looking at data.
Creativity is essential – when examining social media metrics, we need to look from a different perspective, Sterne said. And then he delivered this gem, which all journalists can probably identify with:
And drink alcohol, @jimsterne adds to much laughter. Relax, come to an aha moment. #3tyow
The goal to presenting social media analytics is story telling, Sterne said.
“Don’t just crank out numbers in reports,” he said. Help people understand your audience, who the typical person is who you are appealing to.
“And sure, if someone comes at you looking for statistics, give them all the charts and graphs they want,” he added.
One point I took issue with was Sterne’s response to a question about real-time analytics. They’re not accurate enough, he said. You need to have a broader perspective of what’s out there – and real-time is drilled down too far.
“The problem is you look at the last data point, and not the whole picture,” Sterne said.
I disagree. When it comes to social media, you need to be on top of what is out there, whether you are dealing with crisis communications or customer service. I think you need to look at the forest and the trees.