Top tips on reaching new audiences and boosting viewing figures #piug12

At the user group a couple of weeks back we spent the second half of the event talking about how to reach new audiences and boost viewing figures. It proved a fertile  discussion, with many of those in attendance and online contributing some great ideas to the mix.

This post is a collection of those ideas, which we’ve split into three different categories: pre-, during, and post- meeting. As you’ll note this is very much aimed at a webcasting audience, but many of the principles here won’t be that unfamiliar to anyone who has tried to promote online.

As we mentioned in a previous post, this is about a changing relationship with your citizens, or members, in which they will expect more but will also be able to play a much more active role in helping you. In the case of promotion this means reaching out to audiences and giving them the tools to help share your content, but also ensuring they have an incentive to do that, by offering greater interaction and involvement.

You can see our training manager, Daniel Herrera’s presentation that kicked off the discussion here.

I’m hoping this list is reasonably comprehensive, but if there’s anything we’ve missed (or anything else that pops into your head) please tell us in the comment box. Cheers!

Pre-meeting

  • Try to find friendly online voices to help – are there any hyperlocal bloggers do you know that can promote your webcast for you?
  • When organising and tagging your webcasting content use the same language that your audience uses. Brighton had more than 600 hits for a meeting around council tax, after a massive online debate using the #bhbudget hashtag on Twitter.
  • Once you have your meeting’s agenda decided try to work out who would be interested in each agenda item. How can you use your existing networks, for example councillors, to contact these relevant people prior to the meeting? Your elected members can actively promote for you if they are active on Twitter. Use Socialmention.com to identify who else is active online.
  • Our friends at Brighton and Hove‘s democratic services suggested that by having a better relationship with their communication department their reach can go far wider via retweeting to many more followers.
  • Bristol City Council promote via their intranet so all departments know they are able to engage with the meeting.
  • Cheshire West and Chester rephrase the agenda points if possible into questions, for example: ‘Are you interested in the future of funding for children’s services?’ As Damian Beaumont at Cheshire West pointed out at the user group, you have to be careful not to misrepresent what is being discussed. Cheshire West then promotes the agenda items via Twitter and Facebook.
  • Brighton and Hove has been holding webcast Q&A, called Open Door, in which the public can use social media to ask the council leader questions, around a theme. They are using reporters from local media to do the interviews, which is helping the council build relationships that may help promote the webcasts in future.
  • You can use some of your existing promotional assets to do the work for you. For example you could add a short link or QR code to a planning application notice so that it takes you to the webcast. You can use a URL shortening service, like bit.ly or tiny.cc to shorten urls (and customise them to make them memorable).
  • Always try to think how you can tie the online debate to the material.
  • Epping Forest marks all of the agendas it produces for meetings that will be streamed as being ‘Webcast meeting’ with a common logo. Then people can register interest via a specific tag and the agenda gets emailed to them when it has been published. Because of the common logo these people are also made aware that they can watch online.
  • Schedule tweets via tools like Hootsuite or Buffer so that promotion is well timed and doesn’t happen in clumps of activity (often, for some, late in the day).
  • Add a Disqus forum before a webcast to get debate going prior to the meeting or UserVoice for specific ideas for debate.
  • Through the webcast content management system (CMS) you can arrange for an automatic tweet to be sent when the webcast starts.

During meeting

  • When tagging use a specific unique tag. Cornwall, for example, uses #ccwebcast. Ensure this is included in the webcast player so that people can easily join the conversation and, as a result, help to promote the meeting and the webcast.
  • Live chat and Twitter conversations can help to increase views. With viewers able to take part in a debate they have a greater incentive to share that debate with others – and, of course, the means to do this.
  • Promote the webcast on the website homepage, as the City of Edinburgh Council has done.
  • Use the embed player to share via your homepage if possible. Or as Bristol City Council and others have done, use the embed player to make your content travel further on to, for example, local newspaper websites. If you share from an agenda point you have the option to share from the start of the meeting or by specific point.
  • Use the webcast to promote the next event – and increase your physical attendance. The Royal College of Surgeons teases meetings online with a small amount of a previous webcast, for example.

Post-meeting

  • Build a public Twitter list so that you have a database of who was participating online around the webcast in order to contact them in future.
  • Think about how you will be communicating between events to retain your audience.
  • Capture the content: CoveritLive is good for capturing conversations and published tweets but you can also use Storify as we did with Edinburgh’s first webcast which is a great way of collecting tweets, capturing the feel around the debate and who was talking.
  • Log in: Know who you are engaging with and building up a democratic profile.
  • Make sure you have expertise in the written stream re: Tweeting decisions.
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