Launching an audience-first strategy while in a state of emergency
How a regional broadcaster became a frontrunner in user engagement during COVID-19 lockdown
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Engagement Strategist, Northern Europe
Implementing an audience-first strategy while in a state of emergency in order to meet audience needs in the best possible way.
Having an ‘all in’-mindset when express-launching an ambitious engagement strategy has led to unprecedented engagement rates.
A case study by Hearken Europe, co-authored by Signe Kirstine Andersen
In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, media outlets worldwide are facing the same unparalleled crisis situation: an all-encompassing breaking news reality and challenging production conditions. The perfectly natural reaction in this situation would be to pause all strategic initiatives in favor of a single focus on covering the latest COVID-19 developments.
But at regional Danish broadcaster TV 2/Fyn, management made a bold move instead: in the quest for serving their audience in the best possible way, the tv station decided to fast-track the launch of an ambitious audience engagement strategy, resulting in impressive engagement rates in a matter of one week. How? A combination of long-term attention to newsroom mindset — and agility.
Serving the Funen residents
Only a few hours after the audience-first strategy was set in motion, noticeable indicators gave way to the impression that engaging journalistic initiatives were exactly what the audience had been waiting for: new questions were constantly pouring in, and a team of ten journalists at TV 2/Fyn were producing answers at a record pace. Over the course of a few days, several questions initiated by audience members were converted into some of their most-viewed articles.
After eight days of intense audience-first efforts, TV 2/Fyn had:
- More than 150 original, user-generated news angles to investigate.
- Published more than 20 articles showcasing a curious audience member.
- 5 articles in the top-50 of most-read articles on the website.
- Build more curious relationships with members of their audience.
- Increased traffic through curious headlines — often striking search engine activity. One article drew 65% of sessions through Google searches and generated 4x more views than average within a day.
- Created engaging, constructive content focused on relevance.
- Covered the crisis in a diverse and nuanced way.
Three weeks after fast-tracking their engagement strategy, even more results were measurable. On day 21 the broadcaster had:
- Received nearly 400 questions from audience members.
- Published more than 50 audience-initiated articles and TV stories.
- Advanced their questionnaires and created three different Q&A’s with answers from both journalists, an economist and a healthcare expert answering dozens of questions.
- A +32% increase in average reading time on audience-initiated articles compared to the overall average in the same period. And +109% compared to normal reading time.
“I’ve been part of projects on building relationships with audiences in the past. And I haven’t had a feeling of connecting this much with people as efficiently as we do now. The warmth in the ‘thank you’s we get from the audience is amazing!” — Kristina Lund Jørgensen, Project Manager and Constructive Editor, TV 2/Fyn
From strategic change of mission to crisis management
The regional Danish broadcaster had developed a mission statement: They’re here to listen, and serve, the residents of Funen. Half a year before COVID-19 hit, the Danish broadcaster launched an internal reevaluation program of their editorial mission, with public-powered journalism at the core of a strategy to be the most constructive news outlet in the country.
Listening played a key role in the engagement strategy. TV 2 / Fyn invited its users to submit questions to the editorial staff via articles and embedded questionnaires on the news site. The questions submitted by their audience then became the starting point for research, news angles and ultimately for what was published. The curiosities and needs of the audience members were the center of the journalistic production.
The user-initiated stories, in addition to a classic news coverage, came to define the way the TV station covers the COVID-19 crisis.
To successfully express-launch and implement an audience-first strategy in a state of emergency, TV 2/Fyn drew upon three core competences:
- Adaptability both on management level and in the newsroom.
- Curiosity; a readiness to experiment with novel genres, formats and methods.
- Being able to quickly adopt new editorial processes and tools.
Thanks to their organizational agility, TV 2/Fyn were able to launch and evolve an extensive audience-engagement strategy in a matter of days. Learnings derived from the process show that five key efforts were vital in order to succeed:
- Transparent communication around strategy and efforts throughout the entire organization.
- Establish a dedicated audience-engagement team responsible for organizing processes as well as creating landing page, introductory articles and participation tools.
- Start small and move quickly: upscale efforts and advance formats in line with the adoption rate of the team.
- Make your approach focused and holistic: mission and initiatives must be reflected in all actions and editorial products and have a clear visual identity.
- Take time to discuss newsroom reflections and worries: Journalists who feel downgraded to Q&A columnists, should be acknowledged for performing a crucial task in getting the feedback loop going — and motivated to advance their storytelling.
- Promote extensively! Invite audiences to engage across channels, consistently.
In addition, it was important for both team members and the project manager to keep an eye on engagement levels and branding, monitor incoming questions and distribute audience-generated news angles to newsroom colleagues throughout the process.
Due to their effective roll-out of an ambitious engagement strategy, TV 2/Fyn now serves as an ambassador for other regional TV 2 stations who wish to implement audience-first strategies following TV 2/Fyn’s example. Furthermore the broadcaster plans to incorporate audience curiosity as an input feed equivalent to news wire telegrams.
Question and Answer segments are divided between experts and journalists. tv2fyn.dk/spoerg
“Since 2015, we’ve worked strategically with the concept of relevance, and it’s been a key parameter for editing our news stories. Until now, however, it’s been difficult to make the shift towards relevance because journalists and editors often choose stories that they themselves think are newsworthy. But what is relevant to a journalist is not necessarily relevant to a carpenter.
As soon as we started working with Hearken, relevance was inevitable. After all, it’s hard to imagine users not finding our coverage relevant when the stories are made on their own initiative. Now, we find news angles we’d never otherwise have discovered, we see a much broader variety of stories and our news coverage seems more in sync with our audience.”
Lasse Hørbye Nielsen, Managing Editor, TV 2/Fyn
An evening broadcast host is guiding TV viewers how to inform coverage on their website.
HOW HEARKEN HELPED
Thorough inspiration and urgent operational support
Hearken and TV 2/Fyn partnered more than half a year prior to the launch — establishing a strategic collaboration on how deeper audience engagement could support the broadcaster’s ambition to become the most constructive newsroom in the country.
Over the course of six months, the entire newsroom staff went through one-week workshops to reevaluate their practices towards a more constructive mindset and workflow — with Hearken facilitating introductions to the public-powered framework.
When the COVID-19 lockdown changed everything, management was then positioned to turn a long-term strategy into an urgent launch, adapting vision and goals into an agile strategy under unusual circumstances with 75% of newsroom staff ordered to work from home. Hearken provided urgent, daily support on the ongoing development of strategic components, such as:
- Engagement strategy
- Staffing and workflow
- Technical setup of Hearken Engagement Management System
- Outreach and audience dialogue
- Promotion and wording
- Formats and storytelling techniques
- Data analysis and evaluation
TV 2/Fyn, based in Odense and covering the island of Funen (population: 470,000), is one of eight regional broadcasters associated with TV 2/Danmark.
The regional TV 2 stations are autonomous stations each of which are fully license-financed with state-defined public service obligations. TV 2/Fyn has, on normal average, 48,000 daily viewers for their 7.30 pm news show and 35,000+ views on website articles.
TV 2/Fyn, based in Odense and covering the island of Funen, is one of eight regional broadcasters associated with TV 2/Danmark A/S.
TV 2/Danmark A/S is a limited company 100 % owned by the Danish state. The primary purpose of the company is to carry on public service business. The regional TV 2 stations are autonomous stations each of which are fully license-financed.
TV 2/Fyn has, on average, 48,000 daily viewers for their 7.30 pm news slot. The regional broadcaster currently holds the position of second most viewed regional tv station under TV 2/Danmark A/S.
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