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This is a post I wrote on August 19, 2007, back when I was trying to decide what I truly wanted to blog about. I’d started a blog called “Newsworthy or Not?” and later abandoned it as I found that community management was what I really wanted to focus on.

However, a recent request by a college professor to include some content from that old blog in her upcoming textbook on Public Relations led me back to it. Quite honestly, Id’ forgotten all about it.

So, I came across this post that I’m sharing here with the hopes that it might resonate with some, even today. And though it isn’t really the focus of this blog, everyone needs to find their story. It’s what makes you unique.

If you’re active across social media channels, your story is what  you share with the masses. Your story is how you engage. And caring about the stories of others is how you pay it forward.

So read on, and I hope this helps in some small way.

Read the rest of this entry »

This is a cross-post from my company blog. 

CNN has released the results of what I deem a very powerful study, making the connection between all  of the news-sharing madness happening across the social space, and how advertisers benefit. The global research study into the power of news and recommendation, called POWNAR, was pretty high-tech. According to CNN, it included: “a thorough semiotic analysis, neuro-marketing techniques, news tracking and an ad effectiveness survey to demonstrate that shared news drives global uplifts in brand metrics.”

Having worked at six news organizations, most recently WRAL, I am very familiar with the conversations surrounding the popularity of news sharing and the perplexities that have come with properly defining exactly how the news organizations, which create the content being shared, can capitalize on it all.

At first, the main area of concern was the fact that the content was moving beyond the news website to social networking sites. (“What, they’re taking our content and posting it on Facebook? My word!”)

News managers were finally able to move past that once everyone adopted the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” mentality, which brought in a flurry of “share this” widgets on pretty much every news story on mainstream news website.  These tools encourage sharing and have reduced it to a single click.

I sat in a number of meetings trying to convince the higher-ups that this sharing was a good thing and if the news organization actually got involved in these social networks and started communicating with viewers and readers directly, it would be a testament to the company’s ability to adapt in the new media space.  It would also further humanize the brand.

Another hurdle successfully cleared. I say this because I’m sure you’ve seen the hundreds of journalists on Twitter, heard the pleas from news anchors to “friend us on Facebook” and read the crawls underneath Larry King and Anderson Cooper’s  introductions to their  shows telling you to follow them on Twitter. I don’t need to convince you that news organizations have embraced the power their information yields across social media platforms.

But back to the point….

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The journalist in me makes it impossible to stop reading press releases. I just can’t do it.  Once a news assignment editor, always a news assignment editor apparently, and part of that job has always been to forage for news via press releases, police scanners, newspapers, beat calls, while eavesdropping during lunch or through any other means that brings in a good story.

But now, since I am no longer responsible for determining what to divulge to the masses during a 22 minute news hole, I’m reading and digesting them a bit differently.

I can now analyze them a bit, laugh at the long-winded nature of many who write them and look for cool things to share with people in my networks.

There is a trend I’m noticing of late. It’s the press release announcing a new twitter account or Facebook page.  (I’ve written about this before.)

If you’re expecting a rant on this one, I may disappoint because I want to think this through a bit more as I type. It seems insane on the surface, but is it really any different than announcing a new product or service?  If your twitter account is a new service, then perhaps it does require a press release. Today I came across 2Insure4Less.com announcing its new twitter page to “share insurance news and answer consumer questions.” 

And before I say anything bad, I have to give them credit for not assuming that every reader would be well-versed on twitter as indicated in this excerpt:

The posts, commonly known as “tweets,” provide insurance-related guidelines, advice and news about legislation and others’ missteps.

They even take it a step further to announce what types of tweets a follower might expect to see:

Many tweets are for national or international trends or phenomena such as a link to a report from Insurance News Net about the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s reinforcement of its tsunami warning systems within the United States since the Indonesia 2004 disaster. The article also describes the National Weather Service’s TsunamiReady program and shares recommendations from the Insurance Information Institute. Other posts address the interests of residents in specific states.

And if you want to read a few previous tweets, just to be sure following the account is a good idea,  there’s this: Read the rest of this entry »

This post is more of a transcript of a conversation that started on Facebook late last night and ended with a phone call earlier today.
I asked friend and former colleague Rod Overton about his job search and whether or not anything was in the hopper. He’s been out of a job since June and I’d been seeing a lot of his comments on the blog LostRemote. My question opened the door for a really good chat.

He answered with this:

“The real problem now is that media companies simply don’t want the truth or common sense. Sizzle, pizzaz and not examining what is not working (and then cutting that) is what they want (sorry for the double negative, but you get the point — they don’t want anyone to look behind the curtain or say the emperor has no clothes.)”

I then asked Rod to tell me more and indicated that I was interested in posting some of what he was writing on my blog. He was happy to oblige:

“The common thread to most of my messages on Lostremote is that during this upheaval (TRB bankruptcy, Belo bankruptcy and McClatchy at 73 cents) publishers and editors (and to an extent TV GMs) are not taking advantage of the environment to make (what is to them) serious changes.

Instead they seem to hope to skate through it as unchanged as possible not realizing that the situation itself is showing them they need to change.
A selfish case-in-point: Someone with my skills goes unhired while people with skills that are quite easy to come by are retained and — in some pathetic cases — shifted to new media roles they will ruin just as the legacy product was ruined.”

Still with me? There’s more.

I called Rod this morning and we spoke a bit more about some of this. He told me some stories about his interviewing experiences and organizations so resistant to change I thought I was sitting in 1987. I knew it was true though because one of the most profound statements he made was this:

Newspapers are stuck on a singular solution!

He says no one wants to overhaul everything and create systemic change.
What he’s referring to is initiatives like writing shorter stories, or adding more color to the front page or including more photos and a digest of what else can be found inside.

Short-sighted solutions that tackle maybe one issue that are seen as the one solution that will change things for the better.

What are your thoughts on this? Are any other organizations or industries focusing on a singular solution? And is the emperor wearing anything at all? What do you think of Rod’s rant?

Thanks Rod, for the interesting conversation. And I hope you find something soon.

*If you’d like to connect with Rod, you can find him on Facebook and LinkedIn


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That is the question I was asked by my boss today.

“I’d love to,” I say enthusiastically and practically giddy. “Will they understand me?”

“If not, we’ll get an interpreter.”

“Sold.”

So, I will be speaking to a group of bloggers from Egypt next week, thanks to a relationship my boss has with the UNC School of Journalism. He once worked there and the dean reached out to him for this particular endeavor.

The point? I’m blogging about this because it underscores my passion for what I do. I thoroughly enjoy my line of work and talking about it excites me. I’m able to get others excited about social media and there are many bloggers who do the same for me on a daily basis. If you’re reading this, you’re likely one of them. Thank you.

Are the ups and downs of managing user-generated content, managing online communities and dealing with the unknown a force to be reckoned with. Absolutely. Just read my recent post about community-management related stress. (Hmmm, did I just coin a new acronym? CMRS disorder?)

But these ups and downs also build character I’m learning. And those of us doing this today will be a great help to those of us doing it tomorrow.

So, Egyptian bloggers prepare for an earful.

I am all about breaking new ground with social media and finding new ways to embrace the concept. I’ve been known to sing it from the mountain tops, particularly when it comes to traditional news media.

I feel that news organizations need to find new ways to reach their readers/viewers/users and prove their worth in the space. Many are doing it and that excites me. I am cheering them on and watching everyone I can. I’m proud to be part of an organization that’s doing it and leading the charge.

That said, I was a bit miffed when I read about a news organization twittering the funeral of a 3-year-old.

Twitter a hurricane? YES.

Twitter a court case? YES! Ron Sylvester of The Witchita Eagle and Kansas.com does a heck of job with that.

But a funeral of a 3-year-old who was killed at an ice cream store?

Seems a bit insensitive to me. Others clearly agree.

Michael Roberts: “After all, Twittering a child’s funeral is a mission more doomed than Jimmy Carter’s attempt to rescue those hostages from Iran back in the day. The results are self-satirizing in the most morbid, inappropriate way possible.”

Cara Degette: “Whatever their rationale, it’s unconceivable. Utterly, and unforgivingly, unconceivable.”

On this one, I would have to agree. What are your thoughts?

You can view all updates here, on the Rocky Mountain News’ website.

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I am going to use this space to share a comment I posted on a South Florida blog I frequent, called The Daily Pulp.
It essentially characterizes my thoughts on the resistance to change in the newspaper industry, which I do know something about having worked at a newspaper as part of a department charged with introducing new ideas and incorporating multimedia and news partnerships into the daily culture. We asked reporters and editors to step outside of their comfort zones on a daily basis. That was part of the job.
On the day I made my initial comment, my former paper had just launched a redesign that was not very popular throughout the comments area, and I chose not to bash them and simply offer mild praise for the fact that they tried something new.
My comment prompted a response from someone within the organization, which The Pulp’s author, Bob Norman liked so much, he posted as a single blog with that comment being the focus.
There are some good ideas there. Really good ideas. But the author is so frustrated with the politics of the news organization and the industry as a whole, he or she may never share them, and I think that’s too bad.

Here’s my comment:

Those are awesome ideas. I’m lucky that I now work for a place where we really try new things. Things that are out of the box, and things that might not work, but then again they might. And that’s enough. But that is not the newspaper culture. Should it be? Yes, but it isn’t. That is why I chose not to criticize the redesign that day and simply offer up mild praise for trying something new. You’re right, there have been lots of ideas tossed around the SS for years that could have been implemented. Heck, I worked for the man who brought many of those to pass and anyone can tell you that we pushed and pushed the multimedia wagon with some success but there was a lot of resistance. What’s important here is the resistance was tolerated. It was an option. It should not have been an option. For too long, innovation has been optional. Now it’s required and that takes a different mindset.
Have you all followed the big whoop about the Philadelphia Inquirer’s decision to hold all enterprise, investigative and trend pieces for the paper only? The backlash they’ve received in the blogosphere is crazy. But a few have spoken up and said, “Hey, at least they’re trying a new model.” I was one of those people who thought it was totally backwards initially and blasted them for it. Part of me still has my doubts because on the surface it is. BUT–they are trying to have exclusive content in the paper and they are going to publish simultaneously so that readers can expect something different in the paper, that hasn’t already been out for a full day. So, again I say: At least they’re trying something. My suggestion to you is to see if you can get someone to listen to those ideas. Speak their language. Put it in a memo, draw up a proposal. If you really care and want to be part of the change you have to keep trying. It’s better than doing nothing. And when you quit and move on to greener pastures..you can say: “At least I tried.”

So, I say you have to share those ideas. Tell someone. Even if you think they’ll be shot down, it’s worth a shot. Change will never, ever come about it if the people with the best ideas remain silent.

While catching up on my twitter reading tonight, I came across this comment from Patrick Thornton aka jiconoclast:

I want to talk about comments some more. It seems to be that building community has to start from the beginning.

I have to disagree with that. Now, I’m the first person to rag on newspapers for moving at a snails pace, requiring that even the most minor decisions are made by committee and for blatantly ignoring the obvious for years through institutionalized denial and arrogance.

But, I’m not sure that many news organizations were aware of, or expected the kind of drama that comments connected to news stories would bring. Yes, it’s ugly and it will only get worse before it gets better. But it can be done. I know this for a fact.
We moderate comments on news stories at WRAL.com and as the Managing Editor of User-Generated Content, I am largely responsible for the policies that come along with it. Comments weren’t always moderated, but we took control of the content associated with our brand, made the change, and we’re still going strong. Do we get complaints? Yes, but not nearly as many as you would think and most importantly, people also know that they can come to us and engage in civil conversations about the issues that affect them and the community they live in.

So, is it too late? No! I think all news organizations should moderate comments, and the sooner the better. Would it have been ideal to start from the beginning? Possibly. But, you may even score points for changing the situation for the better.

Managing user-generated content can be tough, and weeding through it looking for the best can be a daunting task. But maybe that’s not your issue. Maybe it’s integration and getting the traditionalists to get on board. Do tell. What’s your biggest issue?

If you’re a community manager or hope to become one, please understand that you will deal with disgruntled members. Depending on your level of involvement in the community, you could potentially be looked upon as a referee.

That happens to me and I am working hard to figure out the best way to deal with it. After all, I don’t want to lose members due to a few troublemakers or users intent on hiding behind the mask of anonymity to wreak havoc on upstanding members who contribute often and are seemingly invested in the site.

One thing that I’m noticing is that just like the real world, people tend to cool off, and emotions that run high one day are often a bit calmer the next.
It’s a delicate balancing act and the skill set needed to manage an online community that is truly a community, in my opinion is still TBD.

If there is a list of five pertinent skills, I believe I at least have 3.5 to 4, as my community is growing and members are engaging more than ever before. Am I hands on? Yes. Do I provide individual attention and answer feedback? Yes. And the community appreciates it a great deal.

But I don’t take anything for granted and just as I had to “plan” and strategize in traditional media, I am doing the same thing here in social media because after all, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

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This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer. Feel free to challenge me, disagree with me, or tell me I’m completely nuts in the comments section of each blog entry.

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