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How a regional broadcaster became a frontrunner in audience engagement during COVID-19 lockdown

Morten Ro
Morten Ro
Apr 3, 2020 · 7 min read

A case study by Hearken Europe, co-authored by Signe Kirstine Andersen

In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, media outlets worldwide are facing the same unparalleled crisis situation: an all-encompassing breaking news reality and challenging production conditions. The perfectly natural reaction in this situation would be to pause all strategic initiatives in favor of a single focus on covering the latest COVID-19 developments.

But at regional Danish broadcaster TV 2/Fyn, management made a bold move instead: in the quest for serving their audience in the best possible way, the tv station decided to fast-track the launch of an ambitious audience engagement strategy, resulting in impressive engagement rates in a matter of one week. How? A combination of long-term attention to newsroom mindset — and agility.

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Promotional video
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Torben asked how to deal with asthma while serving as a police officer

THE OUTCOME
Serving the Funen residents

Only a few hours after the audience-first strategy was set in motion, noticeable indicators gave way to the impression that engaging journalistic initiatives were exactly what the audience had been waiting for: new questions were constantly pouring in, and a team of ten journalists at TV 2/Fyn were producing answers at a record pace. Over the course of a few days, several questions initiated by audience members were converted into some of their most-viewed articles.

After eight days of intense audience-first efforts, TV 2/Fyn had:

  • More than 150 original, user-generated news angles to investigate.
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Q&As divided between experts and journalists, tv2fyn.dk/spoerg

Three weeks after fast-tracking their engagement strategy, even more results were measurable. On day 21 the broadcaster had:

  • Received nearly 400 questions from audience members.

“I’ve been part of projects on building relationships with audiences in the past. And I haven’t had a feeling of connecting this much with people as efficiently as we do now. The warmth in the ‘thank you’s we get from the audience is amazing!” — Kristina Lund Jørgensen, Project Manager and Constructive Editor, TV 2/Fyn

Evening news, showcasing question-asker story (0:01), promotion video (2:00) and CEO statement (4:10)

THE APPROACH

From strategic change of mission to crisis management

The regional Danish broadcaster had developed a mission statement: They’re here to listen, and serve, the residents of Funen. Half a year before COVID-19 hit, the Danish broadcaster launched an internal reevaluation program of their editorial mission, with public-powered journalism at the core of a strategy to be the most constructive news outlet in the country.

Listening played a key role in the engagement strategy. TV 2 / Fyn invited its users to submit questions to the editorial staff via articles and embedded questionnaires on the news site. The questions submitted by their audience then became the starting point for research, news angles and ultimately for what was published. The curiosities and needs of the audience members were the center of the journalistic production.

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The user-initiated stories, in addition to a classic news coverage, came to define the way the TV station covers the COVID-19 crisis.

To successfully express-launch and implement an audience-first strategy in a state of emergency, TV 2/Fyn drew upon three core competences:

  • Adaptability both on management level and in the newsroom.
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Audience questions are often on how to deal with infection risks, lockdown restrictions and financial issues. Users quickly adopted the curiosity-instead-of-comments call-out, making room for constructive and empowering answers.

Thanks to their organizational agility, TV 2/Fyn were able to launch and evolve an extensive audience-engagement strategy in a matter of days. Learnings derived from the process show that five key efforts were vital in order to succeed:

  1. Transparent communication around strategy and efforts throughout the entire organization.
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Evening show host guiding viewers how to inform coverage

In addition, it was important for both team members and the project manager to keep an eye on engagement levels and branding, monitor incoming questions and distribute audience-generated news angles to newsroom colleagues throughout the process.

Due to their effective roll-out of an ambitious engagement strategy, TV 2/Fyn now serves as an ambassador for other regional TV 2 stations who wish to implement audience-first strategies following TV 2/Fyn’s example. Furthermore the broadcaster plans to incorporate audience curiosity as an input feed equivalent to news wire telegrams.

“Since 2015, we’ve worked strategically with the concept of relevance, and it’s been a key parameter for editing our news stories. Until now, however, it’s been difficult to make the shift towards relevance because journalists and editors often choose stories that they themselves think are newsworthy. But what is relevant to a journalist is not necessarily relevant to a carpenter.

As soon as we started working with Hearken, relevance was inevitable. After all, it’s hard to imagine users not finding our coverage relevant when the stories are made on their own initiative. Now, we find news angles we’d never otherwise have discovered, we see a much broader variety of stories and our news coverage seems more in sync with our audience.”

— Lasse Hørbye Nielsen, managing editor, TV 2/Fyn

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Leyla asking: Is car-sharing safe these days?

HOW HEARKEN HELPED

Thorough inspiration and urgent operational support

Hearken and TV 2/Fyn partnered more than half a year prior to the launch — establishing a strategic collaboration on how deeper audience engagement could support the broadcaster’s ambition to become the most constructive newsroom in the country.

Over the course of six months, the entire newsroom staff went through one-week workshops to reevaluate their practices towards a more constructive mindset and workflow — with Hearken facilitating introductions to the public-powered framework.

When the COVID-19 lockdown changed everything, management was then positioned to turn a long-term strategy into an urgent launch, adapting vision and goals into an agile strategy under unusual circumstances with 75% of newsroom staff ordered to work from home. Hearken provided urgent, daily support on the ongoing development of strategic components, such as:

  • Engagement strategy

Curious to learn how Hearken can help fast-track your audience engagement when it matters the most? Let us know how we can help!
More about this project: Read TV 2/Fyn’s blog post.

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TV 2/Fyn

TV 2/Fyn, based in Odense and covering the island of Funen (population: 470,000), is one of eight regional broadcasters associated with TV 2/Danmark.

The regional TV 2 stations are autonomous stations each of which are fully license-financed with state-defined public service obligations. TV 2/Fyn has, on normal average, 48,000 daily viewers for their 7.30 pm news show and 35,000+ views on website articles.

We recommend to keep an eye on the broadcaster’s pioneering developments on public-powered and constructive journalism plus their piloting of workflow automation tool, DiNA.

We Are Hearken

The Hearken team's thoughts on journalism, engagement, and…

Morten Ro

Written by

Morten Ro

Engagement consultant @Hearken. Fmr. news editor @TV 2 News DK. Finding ways to keep trust, engagement, transparency in public dialogue. Lives in Cph/DK.

We Are Hearken

The Hearken team's thoughts on journalism, engagement, and tech. Hearken means: to listen. We believe that listening to your audience first, not last, makes for better everything. We're here to help: http://www.wearehearken.com/

Morten Ro

Written by

Morten Ro

Engagement consultant @Hearken. Fmr. news editor @TV 2 News DK. Finding ways to keep trust, engagement, transparency in public dialogue. Lives in Cph/DK.

We Are Hearken

The Hearken team's thoughts on journalism, engagement, and tech. Hearken means: to listen. We believe that listening to your audience first, not last, makes for better everything. We're here to help: http://www.wearehearken.com/

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