This week’s essential reading comes in the form of the Center for Citizen Media’s report titled Frontiers of Innovation in Community Engagement: News Organizations Forge New Relationships with Communities.
The report is written for those who are yet to become interested in the new opportunities afforded by Web 2.0 and contains plenty of global case studies and some very practical recommendations for those heading down this path.
Replace ‘news organisations’ with ‘museums’ and there are some terrific and practical insights into new ways of engaging audiences and in so doing embedding the museum experience in the everyday life of communities (and vice versa).
If you have attended any of my talks and presentations you will know I am fond of talking about museums as potential media organisations, and as platforms for multi-directional publishing and engaging communities. From the report, here are the four reasons as to “why news organisations should bother experimenting with user communities” –
– Regaining a place at the center of the civic conversation
– Enhancing institutional memory
– Reducing bunker mentality
– New stories, new ways
Here are there recommendations for anyone looking at rebuilding their online presence along the lines of increased community engagement.
In the Internet Age, it’s easy — and relatively inexpensive — to try new ideas. The cost of failure is low for any individual experiment.
Don’t merely tolerate risk-taking in the newsroom and on the business side of the operation. Embrace it, and the fact that failure is part of risk-taking.
Approach community building with confidence, teamwork, and appropriate expectations.
• Confidence: Building an online community requires a different tone and approach than a traditional news site: personality, humor, and authenticity are key.
• Teamwork: Community sites have a better chance of success if staffers throughout the newsroom and the organization use them rather than being the province of a small “community team” that has little or no contact with the newsroom.
• Expand your team beyond your staff, and even beyond your site. For example, reward local bloggers who link to your site just as much as you reward readers who contribute to your site directly. Consider growing the “ecosystem” of local sites that link to yours as part of your mission.
• Expectations of Contributors: Don’t expect nonjournalists to feel comfortable taking on the role of journalist. While some contributors may be eager to write a “story,” others will want to share lived experiences. Finding ways to accommodate, encourage, and learn from contributors is key to success.
• Expectations About Growth: Communities are organic. They grow through the web-equivalent of word of mouth. Expect a significant period of time – as much as six months, maybe much more – before a community gains a life of its own. (If things aren’t working a year after you start, however, it’s definitely time to reconsider your approach.)