October 26, 2011
Photo by John McNab, Flickr.
In February 2011, Tufts launched TuftsNow, an integrated news space for the university, with the goals of “telling good stories” and “presenting and delivering those stories well.” The site solved the university’s problem of a fractured news presence. Previous to the launch of TuftsNow, there were two separate, news sites — not coordinated editorially — plus the PR office: a third Tufts news outlet.
In researching and planning for what would became TuftsNow, the team explored other universities’ news presences and found they frequently had:
Stuck in the 20th century
Use MSM as a Model
Lacking great higher ed news examples, the TuftsNow team looked outside of higher ed to mainstream medai models including: NPR, NYT, Guardian, Time and TED for inspiration and role models. “Just because we’re in Higher Ed,” says Cohen, “doesn’t mean our audiences will give us a break with our new presence.” Hiring journalists for your news team will help you elevate the quality of your content.
Take a Holistic Approach
The TuftsNow team was comprised of writers, designers, developers, photographers from the start of the project. Each person brings their perspective and contributes to the solution. Think about how your team works together, how it plans out content and taps into the institutional goals to inform the news process.
Focus on Storytelling
Story is central. Focus on the messages and stories you want to tell and make those the priority, not the format (e.g., print, web, etc.) “Actions driven by emotion are extremely powerful,” says Cohen, so make sure that your stories are created to make the greatest impact on your audience.
Take a Fresh Approach
Don’t tell the same old story the same old way. For example, Boston University’s Professor Voices blog shows off faculty expertise by tapping into the zeitgeist to produce content that’s relevant and appeals to multiple audiences.
Use analytics to learn what people are looking for, what they’re ignoring and what they’re sharing with other through social stats. This can be a great bridge to informing your next content strategy move.
Try Something New
Don’t be afraid to experiment with new tools; they’re the path to innovative ways of telling stories. Even something as simple as having student ambassadaors live tweet events can offer event coverage that might not otherwise would have been captured. The richness of our campus experiences is defined by lots of experiences, big and small.
Don’t Forget Design
News is a unqiue content type and needs a unique design to serve the content –and the audience — appropriately.The Society for News Design offers lots of resources for telling stories visually. Again, mainstream media can be a source of inspiration.
Find Interactive Content and Have a Real-Time Mindset
Tools like Cover it Live is free and extends your reach and creates an opportunity for interactivity. You’ll also want to capitalize on what your audiences want right now. Figure out what is immediately relevant. When an earthquake hit the east coast on Aug. 23, 2011, Cornell University posted a video featuring one of its professors explaining earthquakes within a few short hours.
Just Do One Thing
Are you an army of one? Or working in a small shop? Don’t feel overwhelmed: just do one thing. Your news presence should be about quality over quantity.