The 10 Questions and Answers that Modern Journalists Need to Know to be More Collaborative and Social.

Professor Joy Mayer inspired this piece through her lecture titled “Audience Engagement.” Follow her wisdom on Twitter!
1. What do Journalist have to do?

We need to take a step back as journalists to ask ourselves; what is is that we are trying to do? Journalism in its most primitive form says we want to inform, deliver wisdom, and gate keep facts. Journalism in a more modern form tells us that we need to dissect stories, expose diverse perspectives and events. We are taught in college that “news is about what just happened not what happened.” This need to always want to update the public of what’s going on comes with an opportunity cost. We’re so caught up in the next story that we lose track of the conversations that are sparked by our pieces.

2. Who and Where is your Audience?

Marketers understand the art of building target markets. They get to know their consumers on macro and micro levels. It is important for journalists to do the same thing. How? Use Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Medium analytics to determine the demographics, social behaviors, and narratives of your audience. As modern journalists, we need to start thinking like marketers. You can’t expect readers to come to you. You need to deliver content where they are consuming media, where they are spending most of their time, and where they are having conversations.

3. What type of relationship do we want to have with our audience?

Our number one priority is to foster relationships that welcome dialog. Dialogs open the door to feedback. Feedback allows you to understand your readers’ sentiments. Like marketers, you can adjust your strategy to develop stories that are more in align with the content your audience members are looking to consume. Our second priority is to develop relationships built on a foundation of trust. To build trust, we need to ensure we are fact checking and creating content that does not tarnish our credibility. To build trust, we need to set the right expectations. We have to hold ourselves accountable to the expectations we set for ourselves and our readers. If we don’t deliver on these expectations; why should we expect our audience to trust us?

4. What does it mean to be social on social media?

Organically, social media is a form of social communication through technology. As journalists, we need to be a part of this interaction. We need to prioritize meeting new people on social media, exchanging new ideas and narratives. We need to listen to the conversations that are happening around us. Listen to both sides of the dialog and draw inspiration from the narrative. Through social media, we have the opportunity to validate our intuitions and crowdsource fact-checking. Just like in social settings we need to adjust the stories that we write and adapt to the conversations that are happening all around on us.

5. Where do ideas come from?

I know different journalists have various forms of gaining inspiration for ideas. I found the simplest and most efficient way of generating ideas for stories is talking to people. If we report solely on what we see and matters to us we are isolating ourselves from the narratives that are relevant to other people. Although we may not want to admit it, our perspectives and backgrounds shadow our pieces. It’s important for us to talk to individuals who are different from us, who hold diverse perspectives and experiences. We need to eliminate our inclination to see the world through our lens so our stories can deliver the filters of different voices. These pieces will enable us to reach wider audiences and expose border ideas.

6. Who can help us generate ideas?

When I think of the people, I would like to interview, I think of people who are masters of their fields. I think of renown chefs, award-winning authors, and scientists. The people who devote their life to their career and do it so successfully. While we can deliver a great deal of knowledge when we write articles about these masters, it’s equally as important to ask your readers to generate story ideas. What do they want to read? What’s important to them? What will they find intriguing? A piece on award-winning Peruvian Chef Virgilio Martínez Véliz might be fascinating to you but not to your audience.

7. What works for social listening?

Four words: community played agenda setting. As journalists, we believe we understand our community, but do we? Let’s devote our time to figuring out the conversations that are happening on and offline. Our stories selections and tones need to include diverse voices. How do we do this? By listening to their stories, by drawing out the logic behind their messages, and delivering it to the masses in a relevant matter. That is the essences of storytelling that modern journalism needs to adapt too. When we are listening to our audience, we have to be responsive to their needs because well that’s the point.

8. How do we measure the success of a story?

First, you need to define what the success of a story means for you. Every story will have different key performance indicators (KPIs). Ask yourself was this story successful in reaching the people it was intended to reach? How did my audience interact with the story (likes, shares, comments, etc.)? What was the sentiment behind the feedback we received (positive, neutral, negative)? Social media and blog platforms offer analytical software that quantifies engagement levels. Use that to measure your successes.

9. How will we know if our journalistic pieces fulfilled their purpose?

If our goal was to inform, then we should ask ourselves did our story meet our expectations regarding reach? If our goal is to invite new readers to our publication, then we should ask ourselves did our audience grow? If our purpose was to evoke emotion in people (e.g. empower women), then we should wonder what type of dialog did we spark? If our goal was to increase fundraising and community outreach, then we need to follow up and measure the success of those initiatives. Different pieces will have different objectives. From pre-publication to post-publication it’s important to answer these questions during the lifecycle of our stories.

10. Why aren’t newsrooms focusing on audience engagement?

Traditional education, lack of resources, and resistance to change are all answers to this questions. The new wave of journalists entering the workforce need to understand that even if their employers are not devoting their resources to interacting with their audience members, it’s imperative for them to engage. The education that you’ve received taught you about traditional journalism; the way it’s been done, not the way that it needs to be done. I ask my young, hungry, modern journalists to push for change. If you’re working for an employer that won’t let go of their resistance, leave. Yeah that’s right, QUIT! Disrupt or be disrupted that’s the motto.