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Illustration by Rici Hoffarth for St. Louis Public Radio

How newsrooms engage their audiences with local elections coverage

Hearken
Hearken
Oct 18, 2017 · 4 min read

Journalists love to talk about how essential they are to a functioning democracy, and point to their coverage of elections and government as evidence. While we’ve written a whole ’nother piece about how journalism and democracy go together, today we’re sharing some of the ways we’ve seen newsrooms engage their audiences around local elections and local government.

Take these as inspiration as you shape your coverage plans for the upcoming congressional primaries and local elections. (And if you want Hearken’s help executing a kick-ass engagement strategy for your upcoming elections coverage, here’s where to find us.)

Here are seven ways we’ve seen our partner newsrooms engaging their audiences around this crucial topic:

Gather audience questions ahead of any events and interviews with candidates:

Find out what your audience wonders about the elections as a whole:

Listen to questions to identify what topics might be most commonly misunderstood:

  • The Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC News) used Hearken last year in advance of Australia’s big federal election. In less than two months, the newsroom collected more than 2,400 questions from people across the country, and reported out answers to a dozen of the best questions. To narrow down to the questions the audience most cared about, the newsroom held three voting rounds.

Invite your audience to tell you what they’d like in a voter guide:

  • Washington, D.C., radio station WAMU asked its readers and listeners to help it choose which issues to include in its voter guide. The messaging to the audience made it clear that the station was looking for questions relating to local races (and lists the races), not the 2016 presidential race. WAMU also smartly sent an email to its members to let them know about the effort.

Help the audience understand the roles of elected officials:

Several newsrooms have found audience members sending in questions about the responsibilities and powers of the people they vote into office. A few examples:

Share answers to your audience’s questions about how they can (or can’t) vote:

As election day approaches, audience members will be thinking about what they need to do to vote. (Often at the last possible minute, of course.) And soon after election day, people will reflect on how easy or difficult voting was, and will have questions about why it’s done the way it’s done.

Once the election is over, keep answering questions about how the government works:

You love to keep those in power accountable. Believe it or not, your audience would like to be involved with this, too. Here are some of the smart questions people ask about their elected representatives:

Want to learn how to better engage the public? Download our free engagement checklist guide.

We Are Hearken

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

Thanks to Jennifer Brandel and Ellen Mayer

Hearken

Written by

Hearken

News organizations use Hearken to meaningfully engage the public as a story develops from pitch through publication. Founders: @JenniferBrandel @coreyhaines

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/

Hearken

Written by

Hearken

News organizations use Hearken to meaningfully engage the public as a story develops from pitch through publication. Founders: @JenniferBrandel @coreyhaines

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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