Moving forward to engagement, Part 2

If you’re overhauling your engagement strategy as a whole for your organization, ask organizational leaders and stakeholders to ponder and discuss these questions:

  1. What is our mission as an organization? Do we still agree with it? Is it modern? Does it reflect who we want to be for the next 10 years or so?
  2. How well does our structure, who we employ, how we produce content and what we produce live up to what our mission states? How?
  3. Who are we reaching? How do we know?
  4. Whom do we need to reach? How do we know?
  5. How do our fans perceive us? How do we know?
  6. Why are people who aren’t our fans — or don’t know about us — outside of our reach?
  7. What does engagement mean? (Create a common understanding of this, which can be multi-faceted.)
  8. For geographically based organizations: Is our community changing rapidly? How are we adjusting to that change? Is there an opportunity in that change?
  9. Are we staffed appropriately to allow us to pursue our goals? This is what I mean by that: Someone in the organization must be charged with being the decider for engagement-related topics. Whether this is its own position or part of someone’s existing role, engagement strategy cannot just float throughout an organization as a responsibility. Engagement is everyone’s job, but one person must be the decider and “river guide” for these efforts. This person should also, if possible, have a deputy or someone cross-trained to help when the primary engagement person is sick, unavailable or unable to work. This work requires cultivation of relationships and keen attention to detail. It’s arguably one of the highest-profile positions at your news organization — akin to an on-air personality or writer. In my experience, this role requires someone working at least half-time on it. Staff it like the front line to your community that it is.
  10. After answering all of these questions, what are your takeaways? Who do you want to reach most?

If you’re working on a project-based engagement effort — or even an individual story — answer these questions in sequence, before you begin reporting:

  1. What is the specific need you’re trying to fill or question you’re trying to answer? Can you boil it down to one sentence? Do that. This will also help you describe your project to others (funders, community collaborators, social media followers, etc.).
  2. To whom is this topic important? Think about factors such as age, education level, race, socioeconomic status, geography, access to technology and marital status. It can also be helpful to discuss who you don’t need to reach with the project or story. Your journalism should be laser-focused on serving one sector especially well.
  3. Why is it important to the targeted community? How do you know? (Don’t assume. Ask.) This can take time to figure out. It’s worth it to be comprehensive in answering it.
  4. How do the people who need this information or are affected by this topic consume information? What tools do they use? In which digital places do they gather? Is the community digitally connected or do they engage with each other in other ways?
  5. How should the journalism be reported, presented, published or broadcast? What tools does your organization already have that can be used to create journalism or information that will best serve this group of people where they are?
  6. How will the group you identified know about the project? This goes back to the whole why-do-it-if-no-one-will-see-it core principle.
  7. How will we know if we are successful? How will we follow up?

Kelsey Proud  
Institutional fellowship project lead


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