Involving the local community in your publishing is not just something that’s nice to have, it’s essential if your site is to survive and will will help keep your content relevant.
Many people find it a daunting prospect and it’s probably the number one issue raised during workshops on community publishing – how can people be persuaded to join in?
There’s no getting round the fact that it is hard work – and takes a lot of listening skills – which is why I asked some of those who have proven success in this area to share their advice with you below.
In addition I would add that it is important to be clear about what you are expecting from the users. For example, if you’re looking for pictures of an event, spell out what sort of pictures you’d like to see – and what won’t be acceptable.
There’s nothing worse for a user to enthusiastically provide content which doesn’t get published and then for them to have no idea why it was deemed fit to use. They won’t be so helpful a second time!
So my top tip would be to spend time ensuring the call to action is clear as well as letting people know what will happen – are only ‘the best’ submissions going to be used or will allcomers get mentioned? What’s the criteria for publication? Any restrictions? What about copyright? Payment? Why should a user send you anything? What’s in it for them?
Be upfront about the process and it will help build trust between your users and the publication but most of all – be encouraging, not all those who want to take part will have had any experience and it could be a big step for them to put a piece of work up for public scrutiny and your expert opinion.
Here’s those other top tips from people with know-how in how to get started:
Stuart Golden, managing director of the One&Other magazine and website in York:
Our motto has always been: Share your idea; Involve others; Celebrate often. Beyond that, the most valuable advice I could offer would be to never position yourself as a blogger as that limits your potential in the market.
Without doubt, the thing we’ve found most difficult is finding digital partners that share our vision and ambition, rather than viewing us as just another pay cheque. Thankfully, we found the right people in the end!
Emma Bearman of the influential The CultureVulture blog in the north of England:
Just Do it, set up a blog, audioboo, twitter etc, ask for help
Use it as your license to indulge your inquisitive curious mind
If you can’t be the source, be the resource. By which I mean if you aren’t brilliant at writing/editing etc then shine a light on others, curate, connect, be generous
Be in and part of the conversation
Make connections with the local university journalism course heads and tutors that really get it
Be guided by your moral compass
Love what you do. No point if it ceases to interest or delight you. Don’t let your blog be a monkey on your back
Be open, kind and compassionate. (those are my own mantra)
See the bigger picture
Take time to check your facts, don’t be a kneejerker
Try to leave your ego at the door
Hannah Waldram who started out with a hyperlocal in Birmingham and now works for The Guardian’s community team:
If you’re a one man band don’t try and do everything – spend time thinking about what you want your community blog to do and only create content which you can justify is in line with the spirit and goals of your endeavours
Integrate a n0tice board into your site or blog.
Publish details of specifically local events.
Develop a Twitter account for ‘instant’ streams of short stories, comments, relevant local links.
Include a Twitter widget in your site. Grow your followers.
Use twitter searches to find local stories, retweet them.
My analytics shows a clear relationship between tweets and page views.
And finally, John Baron of the South Leeds Life blog:
My tip would be to engage in the real world, be seen on your patch, run public meetings and discussions. Show you’re a real person, not just a twitter avatar.
Any other tips to share? Please do feel free to pass on your experiences via the comments below.