5 takeaways from How To Recreate Relationships With Local Audiences

Chelsea Cirruzzo, (@chelseacirruzzo), a volunteer with the ONA Resource Team, compiled these key moments from the ONA20 session on Oct. 14, 2020. To view a recording of the session, register for on-demand access to the ONA20 archive. Session participants included:


5 key takeaways:

  1. Connect with audiences by working on becoming friendlier and more accessible. Honolulu Civil Beat transitioned their newsroom by taking down as many barriers between newsroom and community as possible (including the paywall) and pivoting their branding to be friendlier. “We did a lot more explaining, a lot less telling, and embraced a more nuanced approach to messaging,” said Ben Nishimoto. They also created an onboarding campaign for new email subscribers, which explained their mission and what nonprofit journalism means, how the organization generates revenue, as well as backgrounds and motivations of all reporters. It also explained the challenges journalism was facing, as well as how the newsroom measures impacts. They also invited readers into our newsrooms for coffee and questions.
  2. Meet your audience where they’re at. Andrea Valencia says after Mission Local started translating most stories into Spanish, “we realized people didn’t know we were an online bilingual website. We realized we could meet them where they were at.” Mission Local began to go to different events: farmer’s markets, happy hours, etc. to reach audiences, explaining who they were and showing their faces in the community.
  3. Mission Local also launched a texting service to text people “news you can use” in Spanish. Andrea Valencia says people said they weren’t sure if information they saw on Facebook or social media was an ad or news they can use. So they launched a texting program where news people can use and other stories are texted directly to them.They designed a flyer, printed it, and got physically into the community, handing out the flyer with information at the texting service. They flyers were also posted outside places where people were going to go, from bus stations to health clinics to restaurants.
  4. BoiseDev wanted to reach more people, but didn’t want to use a paywell. Paywalls can be problematic and leave a portion of the audience out, Don Day said. So they came up with a membership program. The benefit of being a member is that members get stories first, with a newsletter that goes right into their inbox at 4 p.m. The open rate on the newsletter is more than 60% per day. It gives them something exclusive, he said. (More on this below).
  5. Set up a strong feedback loop: you should give your audience a channel to easily communicate with you and make sure you’re there to respond. BoiseDev made a Facebook group to share news and give people the chance to give feedback. At Honolulu Civil Beat, the masthead has a photo cross-section of donors to make sure donors and their reasons are well-illuminated. They also created a Slackbot to give people the option to explain why they donated. About 95% of people actually wrote a little note. “We felt our reporters deserve to know who supports them,” Ben said. Reporters who need a pick-me-up check the Slackbot.

Memorable/tweetable quotes:

  • “We did a lot more explaining, a lot less telling, and embraced a more nuanced approach to messaging,” said Ben Nishimoto, on becoming a friendlier and more accessible newsroom.
  • “It’s a responsibility as a news website…not just have the reader come to you, you have to go to them,” said Andrea Valencia.
  • On having a membership system with exclusive content: “People just really liked to be the first to know,” Don Day said.

Links to additional resources