My keynote address at the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association community engagement workshop


I had the opportunity Nov. 13 to geek out with other community managers and socially savvy reporters when the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association invited me to keynote their Sharon Johnson Memorial Workshop on community engagement.

My speech focused on what I refer to as “maximizing the message and minimizing the messenger” — basically, putting news and information ahead of an organization’s brand.

The work I do at Billy Penn revolves around engaging different communities according to their preferences, and making sure the first thing we do is inform them. So often — because it’s so easy for content to get lost online — news organizations make it a point to remind their audiences who’s informing them. Only News 1 spoke with this councilman about this issue! Our reporter Jane Schmo attended a major education meeting and has all the details for you! Where’s the information in those sentences? Why have we forgotten that our job as news professionals is to inform people?

I kept my speech to about 15 minutes so everyone at the workshop could have a full half-hour to ask questions of me and others, and to share their experiences with community engagement. There were about 25 people in attendance, and I think this is one of the most productive conversations about industry issues that I’ve been a part of in these workshop settings. It doesn’t matter if you work at a small startup like I do, at a legacy newspaper covering state politics, or for a smaller publication covering local issues — everyone has community engagement tales to tell and scars to show.

Below are some key points from my speech:

Journalists are the messengers and it’s our job to convey information. It’s not our job to remind people over and over again they we are the ones conveying that information.

Stop pasting others’ reporting into your own blog post and adding three lines of copy so you can get a click. Stop writing Facebook posts reminding readers that your reporter broke the story. Focus on the message.

Think like a reader/viewer/listener. If a story is best told through a list, publish it as a list. It’s not a journalistic sacrifice, it’s putting your audience’s needs ahead of what you think is best.

Treat everyone as if what they’re saying is very important, because it’s very important to them. If you’re only half-listening to people because you think you already know what they’re going to say, there’s a good chance you’re missing out on a big story.

A community engagement session wouldn’t be complete without a Storify

Chris Mautner, the community engagement lead for PennLive, put together a Storify story of the entire workshop, which also featured a panel and talks from U.S. News & World Report Social Media Editor Lauren Boyer and Central Pennsylvania Business Journal Managing Editor Amy Gulli.



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Shannon Wink

Shannon Wink is a Philadelphian and experienced reporter, editor, community manager and content marketer.

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