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Sept. 20, 2011, noon

A social-media guide for public broadcasters targets the skeptical and the ambitious

Until now, hundreds of independent NPR and PBS affiliates have had no common resource for best practices in social media.

Even though NPR and PBS have social media policies (while other news organizations choose not to and still others debate their value), hundreds of independent public broadcasters have shared no common resource for social-media best practices.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting wants to fill that gap with a newly released social media handbook for stations, which is hosted at the National Center for Media Engagement website. CPB commissioned the marketing firm iStrategy Labs to write a guide that targets a broad audience: not just the stations who need guidance, but the stations who still need convincing of social media’s value.

“There remains some hesitancy in public media toward embracing social media,” said Daniel McCoy, CPB’s product manager of media strategies. “This is a resource that we knew that stations would trust coming from CPB and NCME.”

In other words, there are a lot of social-media guides out there but none that speak directly to public media’s core values. And for many small stations, social media can be a hard sell when the news director is also the morning anchor and the metro reporter.

The handbook includes fill-in-the-blank templates for creating social media campaigns, with sections for goals, staffing, tactics, and measurement. It includes suggestions for a station’s “voice” on social media (be human, establish traditions, call for action). It includes case studies conducted over the past year that demonstrate social-media success — KQED’s one-day Groupon deal for membership, HoustonPBS’s Bon AppeTweet campaign, KPBS Radio’s, erm, lively Facebook discussion about its format change.

And it includes a guide for creating policy, as it applies to both personal accounts and work accounts. The guidelines include:

  • Make it explicitly known that your posts, thoughts, and opinions are your own, and not the station’s…
  • You are allowed to identify yourself with your station. However, once you do, all of the content you generate must be consistent with how you would present yourself in any professional situation…
  • If you post something related to your station or public media, put in a disclaimer so that people know that it is your opinion…
  • Do not post confidential or proprietary station information…
  • Use common sense…

NCME is asking for stations to email their social-media policies — anonymously — to serve as examples. In a webinar unveiling the new handbook a few days ago, an informal poll asked participants: “Does your station currently have a social media policy?” Perhaps tellingly, most respondents selected “Sort of.”

CPB also launched an interactive benchmarking tool for stations to see how their social media “understanding” compares to that of their peers throughout the system. iStrategy collected comparison data from 500 stations in December 2010.

Researchers also selected 10 stations over a four-week period for a more intensive study to determine what kind of social-media postings generated the most comments, likes, retweets, and replies. The findings appear in the handbook. Questions (“Should sake be served hot or cold?”) drove the most engagement, followed by promotion of web (not broadcast) content and links to news, the study found. A separate audience survey found that listeners and viewers who use social media overwhelmingly want local news and events information from stations, with scheduling/programming information in third place.

McCoy said the guide is designed to be shared with everyone at a station to get the most buy-in. “We wanted to attract people that aren’t necessarily the social media manager,” McCoy said.

POSTED     Sept. 20, 2011, noon
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