Driving Organizational Change With Data. CrowdTangle Kicks Off a 12 Week Program on Empowering Digital Innovation in Newsrooms

What does it really take to drive a new habit? Many newsrooms are experimenting and finding success on the retention front with readers, but we wondered… have they tried it with their colleagues?

Over the course of 12 weeks, CrowdTangle is bringing together 15 local news publishers across North America to participate in our first ever digital tools adoption bootcamp.

The program is designed so that social media and digital directors can come together and collectively address one of their biggest challenges: How do you change the culture of a newsroom so that digital analytics tools like CrowdTangle are more broadly accepted and used?

Esra Dogramaci, digital strategist and a former social lead at Deutsche Welle, BBC and Al Jazeera, is co-leading the program along with the CrowdTangle team. “In all my years working in digital, CrowdTangle has got to be one of the stand out products which completely transformed the way I work. Its applicability for news cannot be understated when efficiency, digital/literacy and automation are synonymous. To connect industry leaders with those who are really paving and nudging the news landscape in change and relevance was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up on being involved with.”

Getting entire newsrooms on board for using any new technology, like a new CMS, new social network or feature, or analytics tool, and incorporating it into an already demanding workflow can be tough, even if the longterm benefits are clear.

Getting Started in New York

Publishers ranging from Tribune Broadcasting to Newsday to Global News Canada attended a kick off session at Facebook New York on June 18th and 19th focusing on frameworks and tactics around culture change and influence. We covered design thinking, led by Marie Gilot and Laura Cochran of J+ at CUNY’s Newmark School, intrapreneurship, led by Jeremy Caplan of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism, and influence mapping and situational leadership, led by Ian Saville on Facebook’s Learning and Development team. Participants are attending weekly meetings throughout July, and the program ends with another in-person session at Facebook New York in August. Participants will be sharing their own best practices while learning new tactics, and following the close of the program each publisher will receive $5k to dedicate to this challenge.

I’m still processing all the information, resources and ideas from the last two days. All of it is already having an operational impact in what we are doing next week.
Antonio Ortiz Director of Strategy and Planning NJTV, PBS affiliate in New Jersey

Here Are Our Top Lessons Learned

  1. Take the time to listen to your co-workers. Empathy interviews are a major facet of Human-Centered Design Thinking, and it can be a real eye opener. The reasons you think someone didn’t adopt a new tool or best practice may be different from the actual reason. It probably goes way beyond “I’m busy,” as most people want to learn new tools to make their lives easier. It’s worth taking the time to sit down and ask, and then brainstorm ideas to tackle specific blockers.
  2. Sustained success comes from conscious awareness. In terms of teaching, it’s not so helpful to gloss over how to do something. If you think about riding a bike — you wouldn’t tell a kid to just get on and start pedaling. You’d position them the right way, hold on for part of the way, show them how to position their legs, and maybe even start with training wheels. The point is, you have to stop and think about how to do it, as a teacher. Same theory applies to digital tools. Training wheels in this case might look like hyper-interactive trainings, 1:1 coaching sessions and building features out for colleagues in advance.
  3. When you’re trying to encourage a new habit, don’t forget about the reward — and make those rewards public. The point is… it has to work. And people have to know that it worked. Recognition is essential when something works, and similarly if it fails to dissect what didn’t work and what the learnings are. If a tool isn’t set up correctly, or there isn’t a clear, instant benefit, it’s unlikely to take off. It might mean incentives or simply introducing recognitions at daily/weekly meetings or in Slack channels and newsletters. Posters! Whatever gets people’s attention.
  4. There are a ton of amazing, free resources on this stuff! Newmark School Entrepreneurial Journalism Professor Jeremy Caplan provided his deck which includes links to NPR’s Innovation toolkit, NYT’s product guide, and the DIY toolkit.
  5. We’ve got a killer summer reading list now:

What Publishers Said

“I thought it was incredibly valuable getting everyone together and realizing that our issues are the same in the end, but collaborating on better approaches/resolutions. The recommended reading and presentations were really insightful. I’m excited to keep pushing digital forward with these takeaways. Can’t wait to keep learning.” — Vanessa Wojtusiak, Director of Audience Development and Digital Lead at WTNH, a Nexstar station in New Hampshire.

“Still digging through Jeremy’s generous resources he left for us. Really great stuff in there. The Methodical Meetings templates may be life-changing for my team. 🙂” — Joy Johnston, Distribution Editor, Cox

“We all have similar challenges getting organizational buy-in when introducing new digital media tools, so working them out in groups with our industry peers helped streamline the process.” — Rachel Snody, Social Media Manager, Sinclair Broadcast Group

What’s Next

Participants will be hearing from (or have already heard from) digital newsroom leaders at Reach PLC, BBC World Service, Expressen, the founders of Social News Desk, HR VP Randy Knaflic, formerly a VP at Google, SpaceX and Jawbone, and Facebook Workplace Scaled Education expert, Jesse Evans. To start diving into the learnings, check out the CrowdTangle adoption kit, and watch this space for more best practices to come.



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