Community engagement

Over the past several weeks in our weekly Digital Team newsletter, we’ve passed along some great tips to our newsrooms for help with community engagement following on the heels of a post by Steve Buttry, a Digital Transformation Editor at Digital First Media. Below we have brought together highlights of our newsletter tips and Steve’s “Engagement Editors Workshop” slides as well as his post about that workshop.

What is community engagement?
It’s news organizations making it a top priority to listen, to join, lead and enable conversations to elevate journalism.

Ways of engaging:

  • Community blogs
  • Seek community content (words, photos, videos)
  • Curation, aggregation
  • Contests
  • Voting
  • Comments
  • Schools
  • Community Groups
  • Feedback
  • Community news and events
  • Breaking News
  • Crowdscourcing
  • Social media
  • Don’t forget the newspaper!
  • Face to face

Priority. Community engagement doesn’t work as an afterthought. Engaging is hard work, and won’t get the time and attention it needs if the organization doesn’t stress its importance. More important, the community is smart and people will quickly recognize when engagement is lip service, rather than a priority.

Listen. Engagement is not mere promotion. If your engagement is all about telling the community what’s important and what you’re doing, or about gathering cheap content, it’s not engaging. You need to listen and respond. You need to change direction sometimes because you value the feedback from the community you’re listening to.

Join. You can’t expect to host all the conversation on your website or in your newspaper. People are discussing community news and issues in lots of important physical and digital places in the community. You need to join those discussions and respect the stature of others who are leading conversation.

Lead. News organizations need to be leaders in the community conversation (organizations with print roots and a history of editorial leadership already have such a role). By listening and joining other conversations, you earn the respect you need to lead.

Conversation. Lecturing and one-way reporting may have their place, but engagement is a multi-directional conversation, where you listen to people, pass along their knowledge to others, ask thoughtful questions and provide thoughtful answers. Conversation is human and personal (sometimes fun, sometimes sad, sometimes angry, sometimes rejoicing). Conversation requires a friendly voice.

Journalism. Engagement is an approach that can and must serve and improve our journalism. It may have some marketing benefit, but the purpose is better journalism.

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