Open Journalism: the benefits of collaboration

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Sky and the BBC have recently been in the news for restricting their journalists’ use of social media. The BBC released guidelines encouraging employees not to break news stories on Twitter while Sky’s new social media guidelines advise against sharing stories from anyone other than their own employees.

Both have been criticised for such policies. Cutting such an important communications tool out of the news gathering process is surely to miss a trick. There’s a wealth of timely and rich content shared on social media. Using social in the media can be contentious – and should be handled with care to avoid disseminating inaccurate or unverified information, from a legal perspective and also to protect the news brand. However, such restrictive practices have caused some people to question whether news content that doesn’t embrace social will become boring and outdated.

The Guardian has taken a very different approach and recently kicked off its ‘Open Journalism’ campaign. The campaign which aims make journalism more collaborative, kicked off with a punchy video. This highlights nicely, how we expect to consume information from different sources and the benefits of a more collaborative multi-channel approach. The video entitled ‘Guardian open journalism: Three Little Pigs advert‘ has been released on YouTube and illustrates the efforts that The Guardian is making to integrate social media in order to present a structured, reliable and more comprehensive source of information.

The Three Little Pigs is a great demonstration of how user generated content can enhance news stories. It just goes to show what organisations will miss out on if they are over-cautious approach. Some industries operate in such a strictly regulated environment that they have to be cautious. However those that see restricting social media as an easier option may find that view short sighted. If time is taken to manage potential risks social media could provide increased benefit for both the organisation and its audience.

The Guardian has a reputation for digital innovation. It’s too early to say how successful its Open Journalism initiative will be, but, The Guardian certainly seems to be working to embrace and adapt to the change social media represents rather than trying to ignore it.

And they do say that fortune favours the brave.

People do not want to create content for your brand

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“Why would customers want to create content for our brand?” is a question we commonly come across at FreshNetworks. The truthful answer is often  “They don’t”. In fact, the question is the wrong one altogether.

Customers don’t want to create content for your brand and we see this with many unsuccessful uses of social media by brands. But customers will create content, and they will do it in a way that is really beneficial for you and your brand, but they are not necessarily doing it to help you.

Understanding motivation for doing anything is important, and this is especially true of social media. You may want consumers to show you lots of photos of exactly how they pack their children’s lunchboxes so that you can better design what you sell to them. Or you may want them to comment on and Like your posts on your Facebook page so that they and their friends will be kept up to date with what your brand is doing. But their motivation for doing this will rarely (if ever) be to help your brand. They are likely to do it for other reasons, and it is these that you need to uncover, before you plan any tactic or campaign, if it is really going to work.

There are many reasons people will choose to engage with you online, and many reasons that they will help you to achieve the aims that you have with your use of social media. The important step is to explore first of all who it is you want to engage in social media, and then to answer to simple (well actually not so simple) questions:

  1. How engaged are they with us right now
  2. What do they want from us

Probably exploring current relationships and motivations will let you understand what kind of engagement you can have with people in social media. This is not a one-way relationship; you can’t ask them to do something for you and then expect them to do it. You have to ask them to do something because they want to, something where it is clear what’s in it for them.

It may be that your target audience is looking for advice on how to pack the healthiest lunch for their children, or that they are looking for new ideas of what to feed them. Understanding this helps you to curate an environment in social media where they will be happy to do what you want (send you a photo of the lunchbox so you can better design what you are selling to them) but also provide them with what they want. You can provide experts on nutrition who will compare before-and-after shots of lunchboxes, or you could get mums to share their favourite lunchbox recipes. In both these cases the photos are gathered, just as you need for you brand, but not because you ask for them. Rather, because you engage with people online and they benefit too.

People do not always want to create content for your brand. They do, however, have many other needs that will lead to the same outcome for you. Proper time spent planning and investigating who you are looking to engage and what their motivation is is time well spent. It will help you to understand what both parties will get out of any engagement, and help to ensure that your campaign is not one of the many examples of social media where people really don’t want to engage with you.

The photo in this post is from the great Things real people don’t say about advertising

Online PR and reputation management

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shutterstock_43532716In today’s world, online PR isn’t just about coverage from professional magazines and media sources. Brands also get coverage from the user-generated content that exists on blogs, forums, online communities and by using the other social media tools that are at their disposal.

This increase in online content can help with search engine rankings, website traffic and the spread of word-of-mouth. It can also help businesses get a better understanding about what their customers are saying, be it positive or negative. In fact, the online conversation should be monitored closely so that if any negativity occurs it can be detected,  qualified and responded to in the appropriate manner to ensure the reputation of a brand is not damaged.

But just how do you manage a brand when people are talking on multiple online platforms all around the world? And how do you use the social web to increase your visibility and coverage?

In June we’re sponsoring an Online PR seminar which will help you learn how to use social media as part of your online PR strategy.

Organised by B2B Marketing , the seminar will teach you how to:

  • Develop a ‘push’ strategy so you can better manage your brand’s reputation and influence market opinion.
  • Monitor online conversations so you can engage your audience and develop strategies to manage your reputation online.
  • Increase your visibility on search engines so you can drive more relevant and better quality traffic to your website.
  • Understand how to use social media monitoring monitoring tools to track media coverage and measure ROI.

One of our directors, Charlie Osmond, will cover how to develop a social media strategy to support PR activity. He’ll also cover how to use social media monitoring tools to track media coverage and help maintain your reputation online.

Other speakers at the seminar include Melanie Seasons and Charley Hayes from Online Fire and Sam Dorney from IAS B2B Marketing.

Book your place here or call +44 (0)20 7438 1379.

Ben LaMothe meets Shirley Brady, BusinessWeek’s community manager

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BusinessWeek Names Me As One of Four Social Me...
Image by cambodia4kidsorg via Flickr

Guest post by Ben LaMothe

In June 2008 Shirley Brady joined BusinessWeek as its first community editor. In this first of a two-part interview, Shirley explains what the newly-created role of community manager means at BusinessWeek and how she engages with the magazine’s influential-yet-niche readership.

Before joining BusinessWeek, she was a writer/editor for the U.S. trade magazine CableWorld, where she launched and managed its website, Cable360.net.

Prior to that she was a writer/editor at Time Inc, working for Time in Asia (based in Hong Kong) before moving to the Time Inc mothership in New York in 1999 and working for Time and People. She’s also won awards for her work as a TV producer, writer and on-air presenter, including the Canadian public broadcaster TVOntario, Discovery Channel Asia and CNN International. She has been based in New York since 1999.

As community editor of BusinessWeek.com, what does your job entail?

Suffice to say I’m passionate about this role and truly have one of the greatest gigs in journalism! BusinessWeek is among a handful of media organizations that’s really putting resources and aligning itself to be open and responsive to readers, which is what attracted me to coming onboard last year. So what do I do, on a day-to-day basis? As part of BW’s senior management team, I manage our engagement efforts with the goal of increasing participation (quality and quantity) of participation by BW’s regular readers and online visitors. Rather than have users post comments and zoom off, we want to build loyalty by having them connect, collaborate and share – with other readers and with our journalists.

In practical terms, this entails overseeing BusinessWeek’s efforts to include readers and incorporate user-generated content (comments, suggestions, longer form opinion pieces) in BW’s journalism, elevating our readers’ participation on the same level as our journalism.

That includes soliciting reader participation in special issues, slide shows and other editorial projects; guiding BW’s journalists to respond to comments on their blogs and articles, which we feature on the “belly band” or scrolling bar on our homepage; helping point our writers to reader-suggested story ideas that they report for our “What’s Your Story Idea?” initiative; commissioning and editing “MyTake” essays from readers who’ve posted smart comments on our site, which provides more space to expand on their views, on the same level as a BW writer or contributor; produce our In Your Face series, which features thought-provoking reader comments on the BusinessWeek.com home page and across the site; produced our first list of the top 100 readers on our site (in tandem with our journalists, particularly our bloggers) and our first reader dinner, which gave us amazing feedback on our efforts from some of the most engaged (and vocal) members of our community; oversee BW’s social media outreach including Twitter ; serve as editorial liaison for the Business Exchange topic network; track and share insights into online traffic and other metrics, including BW’s reader engagement index; work with my colleagues in tech, art, interactive, edit, marketing, research and other departments to implement these initiatives and improve the user experience on our site; and in general, develop best practices and raise the bar for reader engagement and BW’s digital journalism strategy, internally and externally.

In the first year, we were pleased to see BW’s reader engagement index increase 31% with nods from PaidContent, Folio and other media brands, with John and me speaking on numerous panels and interviews such as this to discuss BW’s engagement efforts. But it’s only the beginning!

In addition to the above, I spend a great part of each day in our reader comments, across our articles and blogs, to gauge our online conversations and find/identify thoughtful commenters to follow up with. That reader zeitgeist gets fed back to our news editors and informs BW’s editorial. We don’t moderate comments on our articles (they are posted automatically unless something in our spam filter – an offensive word or a link – places a comment into the pending queue for review).

We also review any comments flagged as offensive by members of our community, and I’ll weigh in on whether a comment should be taken down. So a significant part of my job is monitoring and maintaining our standards, which helps elevate the conversation and helps make BusinessWeek.com a more engaging place for our readers to feel welcome, to share their points of view and want to come back on a regular basis.

I should add that reader engagement is by no means a one-person effort. For example, comments on our blogs are moderated by our journalists, who are encouraged to nurture their respective communities of readers who frequent their blogs.

I also work closely with BW’s online management team, news editors and channel editors to foster these efforts; Celine Keating, a veteran BW copy editor who assists me in reviewing user comments and flagging any discussions that get out of hand; Ira Sager, the online editor who manages our blogs; Francesca Di Meglio, a reporter on our Business Schoolsteam who has done a great job building our thriving b-schools community of lively MBA forums and guest writers for our MBA Journal franchise; Rebecca Reisner, who produces our popular Debate Room series (arguably, BW.com’s first foray into reader engagement); Greg Spielberg, who worked with me from January to August as our first reader-engagement intern; and BW’s business-side team (Ron Casalotti, Michelle Lockett and Maki Yamasaki) who oversee user participation and outreach on BW’s award-winning Business Exchange, which launched in Sept. 2008.

As a side note, it’s been fascinating to see how Twitter has informed our efforts and my job. Many of our readers post their Twitter handles in their comments, so we continue the conversation between our readers and journalists by being active in the conversations that bridge BusinessWeek.com and Twitter. We’ve now got more than 60 staffers just from BW editorial on Twitter; incorporated Twitter widgets on some of our blogs and within Business Exchange, which earlier this year enabled users who linked their BX profile with their Twitter accounts to simultaneously comment on both platforms – the first Twitter integration by a major media brand, as far as we’re aware. We also recently launched an official BusinessWeek Twitter feed.

In Part Two of this interview, we deal with the interaction between the Community Desk and Editors, and how Community Management in news is changing BW’s evolving strategy.

Wise words from community expert, Angela Connor

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From HappyAbout.info

We were sent a review copy of ‘18 Rules of Community Engagement’ by Angela Connor, which contains very useful lessons for all businesses engaging with – or planning to engage with – their customers and potential customers online.

Angela Connor has boiled down a huge subject into an 18-step strategy. Think of it as an accessible masterclass by a pragmatist rather than a theoretical lecture or high-minded discussion.

Currently Managing Editor of User-Generated Content at WRAL.com, in 2007 Angela launched GOLO.com, the first online community for the top-rated television station in the state which has grown to more than 12,000 members.

Angela has a background in journalism that shines through in her written style, making it easy to follow, conversational and crisp.

Essentially, unlike some ‘gurus’ and ‘experts’ who perform a commentary, Angela has done the hard slog, learned the hard lessons and continues to grow her community day-to-day. Her thinking is fresh and grounded in reality.

Just like we do here at FreshNetworks, Connor returns again and again to the themes of interaction, engagement, conversation. Above all, the importance of getting in the mix, not performing a high-handed role from atop, but being a part of your community, regardless of what the community is formed around.

From the outset, Connor is clear:

“We are now living in the conversation age, where one-way communication is no longer acceptable or desired. People want to engage and discuss, react and interact.

“It is no longer effective to have an online presence without interaction.”

Key lessons:

•    “It takes a different kind of investment to grow community, and a major portion of that investment is TIME.”
•    Community managers need to have “a long-term strategy and a plethora of tools in your toolkit to turn lurkers into contributors and to encourage contributors to ramp it up a bit and move into the zone of those who post ‘very often.’
•    Engaging, asking questions, chatting to members and offering them something useful and interesting is all vital.
•    Look after your members and appreciate them: “stroke a few egos”.
•    Every community has its own culture and set of values.
•    Be open, honest, sharing – and accept and respond to criticism!

With this book, Angela Connor has put together a really handy overview with genuinely useful thinking points to steer community management efforts in the right direction.

Above all else, the breadth of activities she covers for community managers keeps us mindful of just how diverse a role it is, and how important it is to do it right.

ISBN: Paperback: 978-1-60005-142-5 (1-60005-142-1)
ISBN: eBook: 978-1-60005-143-2 (1-60005-143-X)
Published by Happy About®.

Read all our posts on Promoting Community Management.