This post was first published on the blog of the Reynolds Journalism Institute.
Relationships take work. You don’t get intimacy without putting in some time. You don’t ask for favors without offering the equivalent yourself. You earn trust by being there consistently, and by listening.
The Trusting News project is basically a recipe for a genuine, two-way relationship with news consumers, rather than just an exchange of information. Relationships involve caring whether you’re meeting the needs of the other party — and being willing to adjust if you’re not. They involve knowing what people need from you and whether you’re meeting those needs.
The 14 newsrooms that helped test social strategies for building trust found that what’s true in real-life relationships is also true on Facebook. If you want users’ attention, loyalty and time, you have to earn it. If you want them to open up to you and speak well of you, you need to show you deserve it.
Here are four rules from dating that apply to journalists who want better relationships with their communities. Read the rest of this entry »
How do people decide what news is trustworthy? How can journalists influence what users consume and share on social media? And in the era of fake stories, when untruths often travel faster than the truth, what can credible journalists do to stand out?
When we began the Trusting News project in January 2016, we had no idea how the presidential campaign would evolve. We didn’t know the intentional spread of false information would play an even larger role in the information climate. We didn’t know Facebook’s algorithm would move toward favoring posts shared by individuals over those shared by pages, making it all the more important that news consumers help spread our content.
We just knew the issue of reclaiming the credibility of journalism was worthy of focused attention.
We started by identifying strategies used by other industries to build trust. We learned from people immersed in issues like patient-physician trust, nonprofit storytelling and corporate transparency. We read research on trust and accuracy from a variety of perspectives. We also talked to working journalists about where they saw the biggest gaps.
We turned what we learned into strategies we wish journalists would employ to use social media to build trust. Then, with the help of 14 news outlets, we tested those strategies and tracked how users responded. What we’ve learned can help journalists influence what the public chooses to engage with and pass along.
The biggest takeaway is that across the strategies, successful posts anticipated users’ needs, moods and motivations. They met people where they were. They demonstrated that journalists knew who they were talking to and how to best invite interaction.
I’m sure most people in your newsroom could provide examples of some of your most-read stories. The one that got shared hundreds or thousands of times. The one that got linked from Google News. The one that keeps finding new audience, months after it originally published.
To be sure, there’s benefit in celebrating your wild successes.
But I think there might be more useful knowledge gained by spending time at the other end of metrics report. What coverage are you investing in that isn’t finding an audience?
Low readership numbers can be due to a lot of things:
- Maybe a story was published at an awkward time and was pushed too quickly off its section page front.
- Maybe the headline didn’t do it justice.
- Maybe it didn’t get effectively (or at all) published to social platforms.
- Maybe there’s a built-in audience for the story that would love it but just didn’t find it, and some outreach would be worthwhile. (Related post: Who’s the story’s audience?)
- Maybe people got everything they needed from the social post or excerpt on the home page and didn’t feel compelled to click for more information.
- And maybe the subject just didn’t interest your readers.
Regardless of which answer applies, don’t you want to know what you’re investing staff time in that is hardly getting seen? So you could then do something differently?
At times of such intense staffing shortages, wouldn’t you love to use data to know what you can stop doing?
Is there any better compliment to the work of journalists than to say it was a community service?
Not in my world.
I just learned that one of my last community outreach team’s big projects at the Columbia Missourian won a community service award in the Missouri Press Association’s annual Better Newspaper Contest. (Here’s the Missourian story about its 56 awards.)
During my last semester with the Missourian, the University of Missouri campus was going through a time of intense turmoil, and the issue of race was at the heart of it. A student’s hunger strike, the resignations of the top officials, regular protests, a free speech debate — and in the middle of it all was a newsroom staffed by Mizzou students and run by Mizzou journalism faculty, trying to figure out how we could best be of service and help draw connections.
The duties of my community outreach team had never been more needed. We used every tool in our toolbox to monitor the mood and needs of the community. We wanted to know what they wanted to know, but we also sought to discover what was making them feel mad, hopeful, scared or disconnected. We hosted and participated in conversations, and we did a lot of listening.
I’m helping organize a Poynter summit on audience engagement. (It’s Aug. 29 in New York, and you should grab one of the remaining seats!) One of the panels will look at inclusion as it relates to community work. In a planning call this week, the speakers (the amazing Anika Gupta, Andrew Haeg and Michelle Ferrier) asked questions like:
- Who are we engaging with?
- Who do we WISH we were engaging with?
- Why do we think people will want to engage with us? What would their motivation be?
- Does our interest in our communities feel authentic or self-serving?
The conversation has me chewing on some overlaps between community journalism and gaming or other niche communities.
Join me in mulling over this question: How does it feel when newbies (noobs in gaming vernacular) dive into something you know a lot about, overestimate how much they really know, mischaracterize your culture or truth and don’t seem to care or even be aware?