When A Plus, a news site dedicated to positive journalism, shared a story that “flipped the script” on fashion last week, its Facebook post started with: “Stories like this are why we do what we do.”

The journalists at A Plus didn’t just hope readers would notice how the post related to their mission. Instead, they explicitly connected the post to one of their core values.

A Plus is one of 16 news organizations spending the summer testing strategies for building trust on social media. These outlets are trying new kinds of posts or reframing the way they share stories. They’re having internal conversations about what they wish their audiences knew about them, and what actions they hope their audiences will take instead of just consuming the content.

The driving idea behind the project is that social media is about relationships, and relationships are built on trust. Under the large umbrella of audience engagement, there’s a need for social media strategies to focus on building better relationships, not just effectively sharing content.

In April, I explained how I began this project. I also outlined the three categories of strategies I wanted newsrooms to help me test:

  1. Tell your story.
  2. Engage authentically.
  3. Deploy your fans.

When I was recruiting newsrooms to come along for the ride, I looked for diversity of mission, geography, coverage and staff size. I talked with each interested partner organization about what’s already working for them and how they would like to see their relationship with their audiences evolve. I then suggested strategies that I thought would be a good fit for them.

For each strategy selected, each organization committed to trying at least one related post or activity per week through the end of August. They’re keeping a log of each post, with qualitative and quantitative observations about how journalists and audiences are responding to each. A complete list of participating news organizations is located at the end of this story.

It’s too early to start gauging results, but it’s not too early to take a spin through some of what’s being tried.

1. Tell your story

Description: Offer users a way into the story of you as an organization. What are your values? What do you offer? Talk about the "why" of what you do, not just the day-to-day "what." As an organization, make sure you know what user-needs you fulfill.

Examples include:

2. Engage authentically

Description: Host a conversation, and listen and respond. Invite people to get to know you. Participate in a way that feels natural to the user. Admit what you don't know. Be human.

Examples include:

3. Deploy your fans

Description: Encourage healthy choices about news consumption and sharing posts. Invite users to make a relationship with you part of their social identity, and to join you in your mission to make the world better informed.

Examples include:

Newsroom partners

Here’s the full list of 16 media organizations participating in the experiment, including which platforms they’re involving in the project.

Follow all of the experiments with this Facebook list

Joy Mayer  
University fellow


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