In public radio, it goes without saying that the public – our existing audience and otherwise – should be at the heart of everything we do. One way to bring more of those people into our reporting is through social callouts, where we ask the wider world to share their stories, photos and thoughts on any number of topics.
NPR has done a variety of these in recent years and we’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. We shared some of these lessons in a webinar with examples from WNYC's New Tech City, St. Louis Public Radio, KCUR and others; you’ll find the recording and slides below.
- Be prepared and don’t overpromise – don’t say you’re going to build a whole show around listener voices until you have them.
- Be as “surgical” as possible about the people you’re trying to reach. Target the niche online communities where your callout will have the most impact.
- Seed it beforehand. Examples can go a long way toward getting people to respond.
- Think about how someone will feel after they read your callout, in that moment when they’re deciding whether or not to participate
- Be transparent with how you’ll use a submitter’s information.
- Use an auto-reply to let people know you got their submissions.
- Don’t be afraid to “flood the zone” and ask for help & RTs to spread the word about your callout.
- Some things will fall flat and you may not be able to do the same thing twice.
If you’d like more information about the six types of callouts and steps, please check out this Social Sandbox post on Tumblr (same presentation, centered around NPR rather than station examples).
Serri Graslie is a digital specialist on NPR's Editorial Coaching & Development Team.