We’ve noticed that many of you have been busy fostering engagement and increasing your profile with community events. We like what we see and we hope to see more of it. To that end, we thought it could be helpful to corral some ideas–from stations, reporters and elsewhere–to help you get the most out of your events with smart use of online promotion.
Please add any of your own ideas or experiences below. The more the merrier.
Before the Event:
Create Facebook-friendly messaging and imagery for your event.
This photo used by StateImpact Texas to promote a recent event on that state's fracking boom pretty much said it all.
From Shannon McDonald, Social Media Editor at WHYY: “Try to find a message for your event that works well on social media instead of trying to manipulate something for several platforms… From the beginning, find a message that can work on all fronts. And to that point, make sure anything you design for the event also has images designed specifically for Facebook. That means that whatever images you’re putting out there should also be made to fit the 403×403 pixel size for Facebook posts and the 840×310 pixel size for Facebook cover photos.”
Create an Event on Facebook.
Invite all of the people who ‘like’ your page, as well as people who you think might be interested. You’ll also want to post additional information, as you get closer to the event to keep it fresh in people’s feeds. Continue reading →
For as long as I’ve known Matt Thompson (we first met a concert in Austin, natch), he’s shocked and awed me with his large brain. Over the past half decade, everything I was trying or figuring out or finding success with in digital and multi-platform journalism, Matt had already thought through, unpacked and articulated. He’s not just a close friend who rescues my $20 bills when they go flying into downtown streets, he is my journalism sherpa.
Few people can describe what’s happening across the media landscape and what audiences need from journalists better than Matt. His world-famous (or at least it should be) ‘Dark Secrets of the Online Overlords‘ presentation explains how we can take the webby sensibility that pervades the most-popular sites on the web and use it to do great, public interest journalism. Yesterday he shared the secrets with our StateImpact reporters and it got a fantastic response, so we will post the video of our webinar soon. But for now, a recap:
We’ve just wrapped up our September Monthly Reporter Challenge, which focused on promotion techniques reporters could take on to build a wider audience for their sites and broadcast coverage. But stations can help in the effort, and since we had a question from StateImpact Oklahoma on what the entire statewide collaborative could do to better spread the word, let’s cap our monthly challenge with a look at some ideas you can use.
First, the initial goals:
Generating buzz around the StateImpact brand; getting people talking about it
Building up followers on Twitter, Facebook, and your site
Beyond the tips outlined in an earlier post, we’ve also observed what our sister project, Project Argo, has done to build audience. I’ve picked out a few traditional and non-traditional promotion they’ve done to get you thinking.
The thumbnail and headline attached to a post can make a big difference in whether editors at NPR.org feature the post or not. They are the only two elements of the post that the NPR.org audience can use to determine if it’s worth clicking through. So if you’ve got a candidate for the rotator, spend ten minutes to make sure they’re as strong as the rest of the post. Here are some of the factors to consider as you choose thumbs and heds:
Remember: the only two elements of your post the NPR.org audience will see are the headline and the thumbnail. So those two elements have to work – alone – in the context of the NPR.org home page. They shouldn’t imply anything untoward in juxtaposition (a post with the headline “Teens Having Sex at Earlier Ages, Study Shows,” shouldn’t be next to a stock image of a bunch of smiling youngsters).
As always, the best images to use are clear, compelling editorial images, directly related to the subject at hand, with captions that make clear how they’re related. Conceptual images (e.g. stock photography) can work, but make sure the people or situations they depict don’t seem to be misleadingly connected to the story. If the focus of your post is a specific individual or institution, don’t use a generic person or place to illustrate that piece.
Be especially careful using images of people in the context of a pejorative headline. Even if the person isn’t identifiable. Take extra caution when using images of kids as well, again doubling that caution if we can see who the kid is. Much of this guidance echoes what I wrote in this post on the Argo blog; re-read it if you need a refresher.
Thumbnails: Think small.
Make sure to use a featured image that’s going to be compelling at the tiny, tiny size the rotator allows. Keep in mind that your featured image will be automatically resized and cropped to 138 by 103 pixels. The starting image should be a horizontal image, ideally with dimensions close to 300 x 224 px or 620 x 463 px. (Neither of those dimensions will be cropped, merely resized. Everything else will be trimmed a bit on the top and bottom to fit the space.) Try to avoid vertical or square images, since the crops will be unpredictable.
A lot of posts were disqualified from the rotator because their thumbnails looked like mush at that 138-px width. An NPR.org user should be able to tell what’s going on in the image without squinting. If you’re using a portrait as your thumbnail, make sure not only that the subject is directly and clearly related to your post, but that she’s well-lit, doesn’t have her eyes cropped off, and has an engaging, active expression. If you’re portraying an active scene, make sure the action is clear, even at this size. Do your best to make sure the image isn’t fuzzy, over- or underexposed, or oddly sized.
Contextualize your thumbnails.
We expect that when users click through to your post, they’ll see a larger version of the thumbnail image, with a photo credit and a caption that clarifies the image’s relationship to the post. Even if you use a conceptual image, the caption is a great opportunity to highlight a fact that relates the image to your post in a stronger way. Here, for example, Cassandra illustrated a post about smart grid technology with a stock handout image from PG&E Energy showing a man installing a smart meter on a home. But she gave the image a nice, informative caption. Hook ’em with eye candy, keep ’em with brain candy, I like to say.
Headlines: Think snappy.
Again, remember that the NPR.org audience doesn’t have any idea who you are or what your site is about. They haven’t been following your topic. So don’t assume they’ll get local place references or topic-specific keywords. Plus, we have even less space for headlines in that rotator box than you do in your site’s skyboxes. So keep those post titles snappy and compelling. Numbered lists perform really well in that space, as you’d expect. So do really straightforward titles such as “Why You Should Assume Everyone Has Herpes.” Newsy headlines actually have been less popular with the NPR.org audience. Remember the three Ps of a good Web hed.
The earlier, the better.
Try to get me your posts as early as possible on the day you’re publishing them. There’s a reason the White House releases news it wants to bury at 7 p.m. on a Friday. That’s no time to publish one of your banner posts, even if it’s great rotator-bait. If you get me the post in the morning, I can pitch it to the NPR.org editors for promotion that day, as well as to the weekend editors if it doesn’t make it up. It’ll also makes it much easier for me to offer feedback if I get it early, and easier for you to respond.