Want to get the most out of your election coverage? Of course, you do. We all do.
Here are six things that you should do:
1. Hash tag: Create a hash tag for your election coverage. Call it something like nameofcityelections. This hashtag should be used for all stories that you post leading up to the election and during the election. This also can be used for any Tweets you create as you attend election night events and wait for the results to come in, which is where you will really get the most value from your work on Twitter.
Promote it: In every story that you write about the election, create a breakout box in print and online that teases the hashtag.
2. Use your video camera: Clearly, seeing a candidate learn they have won a race, makes for not just great stills, but wonderful video footage. No brainer stuff really. Consider how you can use video in your newsroom. Before results come in, have your top political reporter offer 90 seconds of analysis about what to expect before the results come in. Tough to swing it on deadline, but having that same reporter offer another quick clip as results come in or after they have filed their content, would make for nice footage as well.
3. Try something new: Give Storify a shot. There's likely no other day this year where there will be more local commentary on social media, than Election Day. Take the best of what folks are saying and try to Storify those comments. It's a nice way of capturing a community conversation. If you create an election hashtag it might be easier to get really nice local social comments. Read our guide on using Storify here.
4. Results: Make it easy for readers to find results from the election. There are two ways that you can do this. In print, with every election results story you run, pull out a box that includes the percentage and vote totals for each candidate. In addition, find some place in your paper, like the front page rail or a page inside, to run all of the results. Online, if your website allows for a ticker, use that feature. If it doesn't, create a story that breaks down the results and update that story and make sure you re-rank that story so it gets good play on your homepage. Relate that story to every local election story you post.
Consistency: Share with your staff the format that you want to use for breakout boxes, so they are all the same and designate someone on your staff whose responsibility it will be to bring all of the results together for your rail or online post.
5. Follow Up: We put so much focus into the actual races, we need to also be sure that we're there after the races are over to talk about what's going to happen next. There's a nice opportunity on Facebook to get a conversation started about what issues are most important to readers. If there's a school board race, ask readers to rank their three hottest school issues and solutions. Same with city, county government. You could even do the same with the presidential race. A poll on your website is a good idea as well to get some information on what's important to folks. Take that info and find out what those newly elected leaders plan to do. Get their election promises and timelines. Are their goals in line with what your readers want? There could be a nice chartical developed showing what's important to readers and what officials want to do. Are they different?
Also: Take that list of election promises with dates from those elected officials and use it as a reference point as you cover them through the years and write editorials about what they've done or haven't done. It's a good accountability tool.
6. Be bold: That is with your front page design. We don't get these opportunities often to have fun with really big type. Election night is one of those opportunities. Don't be shy.
Related Election Content
Invite readers to your newsroom on election night
GateHouse's national election site
David Arkin is Vice President of Content & Audience for GateHouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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