Chrys Wu is a journalist-turned-user engagement strategist. When I called to ask her what engagement is and how journalists can achieve it, she offered stellar nuggets of wisdom. I’ll share a few here.
— Engagement (and, really, we should use more specific words so we know what we’re talking about) is about the things we do to develop a relationship between us and the people who are interested in what we’re doing. It’s not just about pushing out content.
— Engagement forms an emotional bond between you and your community. Think of it as developing a good customer relationship. “If you do engagement well, however you define it, what you’re essentially doing is creating happy customers,” Chrys says. “When people have an attachment to you, they’re less likely to leave” when presented with other options. Help them feel something about what you’re doing.
— Offline and online engagement can be seamless, if you have a community that’s interested in what you’re doing. Your strategies for connecting with them may not be the same online and off, but your motivation for creating relationships might be consistent.
— If you have limited staffing, don’t feel like you have to be everywhere your users are. Be strategic about how and where you spend your time.
— Understand that there are lots of valid ways to communicate. Don’t be fooled into thinking there’s One Right Way, for social media in particular. There are cultural norms that are good to be aware of, but there’s no single recipe for success. If someone tells you you’re “doing it wrong,” don’t conform without giving it some thought. Make sure you’re meeting your objectives and the needs of your community, then don’t worry about what others think.
— For engagement efforts to work, cultural changes have to be company wide. One person dancing alone does not make an organization more engaged with its community.
This was originally posted on the blog of the Reynolds Journalism Institute, where I am a 2010-2011 fellow.