Why should you write 'Keep me engaged' pieces?
Almost all news media are present on social media, many have reaction modules on their sites or facilitate forums. Some progressive newsrooms even let their visitors contribute to discussions on what content newsrooms should create. In major news events, the content of the public is shared. It was Jay Rosen who formulated the label of citizen journalism many years ago: "When the people formerly known as the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another."
There are two main reasons to encourage and stimulate conversation:
- To reach your audience where they are and keep them engaged by providing updates in an environment that allows them to participate in the conversation.
- To leverage the knowledge and insights of your audience to enhance your reporting by incorporating diverse perspectives and content that may not be present in your newsroom.
In summary, facilitating conversation through news media is a powerful way of presenting the facts that the public cares about. Consider that in fulfilling this user need, you don't have to do much more than tell what has been said. That information is enough to get people to participate in the conversation. Whether that's at the office coffee machine, in the pub with friends or of course on social media.
On a more commercial level: if you’re a trusted part of the community, you’re more likely to be considered a good source of information for people who want to stay updated on trending topics. These pieces tend to generate engagement and get shared more often, which creates a nice loop - or, as we like to put it ‘story life cycle’. If you already have a team in place tracking social media, these pieces are a relatively easy way to attract readers and bolster engagement.
When to write a 'Keep me engaged' story
Around a big event that's sure to loosen people's tongues on social channels is a good time to write one of these articles. It's also good to jump on the train when something starts trending. If you’re looking to create a follow-up to one of your own news articles, see how often your social sharing buttons are used and if you can gather some of these reactions for your 'Keep me engaged' piece.
Besides that: if you’ve seen an interesting debate in a talkshow or performance on a big event that you think should be seen by your audience, this could lead to a ‘Keep me engaged’ story.
Getting started with a 'Keep me engaged' story
Writing these pieces will involve some social newsgathering and investigation. Maybe the best way of finding topics that could connect to the user need ‘Keep me engaged’, is the topic that you’ve heard someone talking about in your surroundings. ‘Have you seen the great half time performance of the Superbowl? Wow!’
‘Have you seen…’ is a great indication of a story that has viral potential. Of course you can also keep an eye out for what's happening on social media, collect interesting reactions on a particular topic and create your article. Or, you could wait until there's a larger event or story that you want to write about from a different perspective, and then start doing the research on the social channels your publication uses.
Useful formats for a 'Keep me engaged' piece
The most typical format is a reaction, or quotes. You can simply show: this is what everyone’s talking about right now. You can get social media posts ‘embedded’ inside the content, a collection of tweets or FB and IG posts.
A good 'Keep me engaged' headline
‘This photo about […] is going viral.’
If a photo, video or other kind of content is going viral - there’s a good chance that people want to join the talk. Make sure that the headline still feels like an update. The only thing you want to do is inform people - don’t make the angle too explanatory. ‘Why this photo is going viral’ would be a better fit for the user needs ‘Educate me’ or ‘Give me perspective’.
Great examples of 'Keep me engaged' pieces
Form a partnership with your social media editors - their job is to know everything that’s happening on your channels and beyond, they are likely able to bring you ideas by the digital armful. They also are best positioned to create a selection of social media posts to help promote and amplify your story. Always remember that social media does not represent society at large, so if something is trending, it doesn’t mean that everybody is talking about it.