Emails sharing the amount of traffic that KQED’s voter guide received have been accompanied by a lot of exclamation points. The guide had over 500,000 views, was printed more than 60,000 times and shared on Facebook over 1,000 times.
It’s not hard to see why. It’s a simple, understandable, accessible and thorough guide to 11 complicated propositions that Californians had to make a decision about on voting day. Rather than focusing on the horse race, KQED identified a clear audience need, and delivered on it.
Now that we’re a little further from election day, I wanted to hear a little more about what worked and didn’t work in the process creating the guide. KQED’s Online Community Engagement Specialist Ian Hill shared some thoughts from those involved in the project, as well as his own observations after KQED’s own election post-mortem on Monday.
It All Comes Down to Planning
The importance of strategic planning came up again and again at KQED’s internal post-mortem, Hill said. KQED began planning the guide and how it would tie in with broadcast and partnerships early in the summer.
They made sure to keep in mind their collaborations, technical ways to make it as shareable as possible, and how it would all tie in with the overall election coverage, which had been in planning long before the summer. Web content producer Lisa Pickoff-White spent several weeks writing the guide itself and prepping it to look right. Hill also started planning ways to let people know about it, from spreadsheets full of email contacts to engaging posts on social media.
During elections there are a lot of things you can’t plan for, so being ready for everything else is key.
Put the Right Content on the Right Platforms
During planning, the team identified the importance online and mobile would play in election coverage, Gabriel Coan, KQED's director of online products and services, said in an email that Hill shared with me.
"We weren't interested in being a mirror of radio or television," Coan said. "As indispensable as that coverage is - whether it's from KQED Public Radio, TV, NPR, PBS, or wherever - the bottom line is that the broadcast experience is very different from online. The ability to re-read, to linger, and to interact meant that we needed to think beyond the news story."
Planning allowed for strong coordination between all the divisions and partners on content, and also made sure that the right content and formats went on the right platforms.
Focus on the Goal and the Mission
The first line of KQED’s mission is “KQED is for everyone who wants to be more.”
Keeping that mission in mind during planning was key to focusing on what the online news team could offer that was unique.
“We want the community to come away better informed,” Hill said. “The challenge becomes finding that spot where you can really put your limited resources into serving the public.”
If you look at some of the comments, not to mention the half a million views, it is clear that the online guide did that.
For more election success stories check out this webinar, and take a deeper look at another voter's guide that succeeded at Michigan Radio.
This post was updated Nov. 21 to add that Lisa Pickoff-White wrote the prop guide.