- Create your own community strategy
Though we created our “Define Your Community Strategy” guide principally for those who have the authority to do so, if your bosses haven’t given you a clear strategy to guide your work, create one for yourself. Answering the questions in that guide will provide a useful focus and direction for your work, even if that can’t be applied across the rest of the organization (at least, not yet.) Why not gather together a few like-minded people in the organization, and answer the questions individually before comparing each other’s answers?
Also, try to reach out to members of your audience and ask them what they like about your organization’s work, what they wish you did better, and what makes your work different from that of any other news source. Also talk to the marketing team about who they think the readers are, and what they know/wish they knew about them.
Treat this as a journalistic assignment – do the research described above, test what you assumed before about the organization and its goals, and search for further clues to the strategic direction in emails and public statements or interviews by your bosses.
- Persuade your boss to let you work on this
The clearest way to get what you need to achieve your goals, is to help your boss achieve theirs through your work. Which of the obstacles you listed in answer to “What are our biggest obstacles to achieving our mission?” does your boss care about most right now? When you’ve identified the right emphasis, find examples of other newsrooms who have already done similar work. Take a look at our Case Studies for inspiration.
There is a clear business case for onsite community. Several studies have shown that readers who comment are more loyal, spend more time on site, return more often, and are more likely to pay for services. We also keep a list of relevant studies and articles about the business case for engagement that demonstrate how community and revenue are closely interlinked.
Also you can point out to your boss that you already have existing communities around the journalism, whether or not you invest in them, on social media and elsewhere – and that their members are judging you right now by if/how you engage with them.
- Do it anyway
If you don’t succeed, make it a side project, and invite colleagues to follow along. Melody Kramer started an internal mailing list celebrating small internal successes and sharing community-focused inspirations, which she then turned into public-facing Tumblr, without asking for permission first. Read more about it here.
- Find like-minds and work with them on small experiments
In a few pieces later on in this site, you’ll find ideas to experiment With Your Community, and Steal From the Best. We also recommend reading this Democracy Fund report, as well as the Build Newsroom Skills section in How To for ideas and inspirations for engagement ideas you can try without any additional resources or investment. For example, the team at The Economist chose to use Medium and Google Forms plus Facebook Groups to try out new forms of engagement with their audience.
- Report back frequently and publicly
Make sure people know about what you’re doing. Create an internal newsletter and sign up senior staff and colleagues. Shout about the successes you create, remind people of the work you’re doing, have clear and achievable metrics and then deliver on them.
Also get your PR department on board (if you have one) and get your boss to sign off on your reaching out to groups like Poynter, CJR, and Nieman Reports about successes. The more you can raise the profile of your boss and your organization, the more support you are likely to get moving forward.
Also read Sam Ford’s piece on developing Slow Innovation in your newsroom.
You’re playing the long game. Keep going, don’t give up, and let us know how it goes. If you need support, we have a whole community of fellow travelers to cheer you on and give advice. Good luck!
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