New Tricks: Create a persona for your online news brand

June 22nd, 2009

The social media space can be tough to navigate at times. You’ll probably be called out at one point or another — assuming you’re doing your job right — in public.

This is why before you put your news organization out there, it’s good to have a game plan. It’s not only enough to figure out who will be the front man for your newspaper, Web site or broadcast site in social media, you must first figure out:

- Voice
- Content
- How to interact
- Touch points across your organization


Determining one’s editorial voice is key. Whether your tone on the air or in print can be playful or serious, it’s a one-way broadcast. An organization’s official voice is usually that: official. In the social media space, however, you’ll be having conversations with folks, so having a more relaxed, conversational tone is important.

One thing that you may want to think about doing is creating a persona. Bill Adee and I did it for our friend, Colonel Tribune, and it helped tremendously.

The biggest question you should ask yourself: If your news organization were a person, who would it be? What kind of food would it eat? What kind of music would it listen to? Where would it live? What kinds of stories are most relevant?


Basically, you need to figure out what, when and how your audience likes its content. For instance, if you’re running a Twitter profile for a news broadcaster in Los Angeles, perhaps you set up a separate feed for local traffic alerts. If you run a national site about D.C. politics, you won’t give your followers weather updates. Right?

Basically, instead of providing news, you want to be as helpful as you can be. Instead of thinking of a story in terms of this:

“Big crash on expressway x. Expect delays.”

Think of it like this:

“There’s a crash on expressway x. Here are some alternate routes.”

The emphasis isn’t the news, per se. 99% of social media is figuring out a way to help someone else. This is a good way to do it.

It’s as simple as that, but once you establish yourself in one — or several — areas, feel free to stretch yourself a bit. Post a link from elsewhere on the Web. Re-Tweet some folks. Do something to keep your friends coming back for more.

How to interact

Previously, I said your editorial voice must be informal. Your interactions must be as well. But your role may be more than just editorial. Do you:

- Plan to post links to your content? Obviously.
- Plan on posting links to outside content? Perhaps.
- Have a plan if someone asks you a question? You should.
- Have a plan for when someone gives you a suggestion? This leads me to…

Touch points across your organization

This is a bit of an aside, but think of this scenario: Say someone gives you a hot news tip via Facebook. Who do you give it to? A reporter? An editor? Do you check it out yourself?

This is something to have on paper before you get started in the social space. It’s always good to have contacts throughout your organization, just in case something inspires you. Want to create a promo for your Facebook page? Have someone in your marketing or creative services department at your disposal. Got a news tip? Have an editor you can work with. Has someone suggested a site improvement? You should know someone in the technology department.

It’s important to have something concrete to refer to as you delve into the social media space. Whether you’re a day in, a week in or six months down the road, just having something on paper will help you evaluate your progress.

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Entry Filed under: New Tricks,Newspaper

  • Editer

    The Post-Chronicle-Gazette took the Which Person Are You? quiz and the result is Andy Rooney.

    You've been around forever, and it shows! You aren't seduced by social blog tweeting. You made a name for yourself on topics everyone cares about, like annoying relatives and the dangers of homosexual unions. If it ain't broke, why fix it? You'll stick to the tried and (formerly) true because good basic journalism never goes out of style. Once the world wakes up from its FaceSpace daze it'll realize how important you are after all.

  • Pingback: Daily Links for Tuesday, June 23th, 2009

  • Ed

    The “Colonel Tribune” persona was a stroke of genius. Yours, I'm assuming.

  • dan360man

    It was.

  • Kiteboarding Kite

    Interesting post, thanks for sharing!


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