Reader engagement requires talking to real people, sometimes in person

Reynolds Journalism Institute
Joy Mayer reports The Chicago Tribune takes a direct approach to its social media efforts: they actually go out and meet their readers.

Mayer, a fellow at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, has been publishing a series of interviews with community engagement staffers at various news organizations. Last week she spoke with James Janega at the Tribune who, Mayer writes, does a lot of his work at newspaper-sponsored events:

"The Tribune hosts community discussions, often based around a topic the staff is sensing interest in. The economy. Parenting. Health. It works like this: The newsroom uses its connections to find the right panelists, then charges $10 per person for the event and the wine and cheese reception afterward. Sometimes, as the events are incorporated into a business model, there are event sponsors. And hundreds of people show up."

Mayer asks about the return on investment for these efforts, and Janega reports the Tribune has seen increased blog traffic, positive social media attention and more story tips as a result of their outreach.

All of Mayer's interviews are worth a read for anyone interested in social media work in newsrooms. But the Tribune is an especially good example.

Social media has become such an overused term it is easy to forget it is simply about connecting people. Sure, it is a great marketing and distribution tool, but the Tribune is demonstrating that publishers can do more with it than just collect followers and distribute links.


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