The Social Masterclass

I’m the Audience Engagement Editor at GBH News, a public media newsroom where we have dozens of journalists fanning out across Greater Boston to cover the most important issues affecting the people who live here.

One of the things I wanted to do is to create a situation where every one of our reporters (and increasingly, show production personnel) have a baseline of social skills.

And that baseline shouldn’t be a low baseline. They should be able to approach every platform like a pro.

In fact, wanted to do more than transmit a collection of skills.

I wanted to transmit a body of knowledge, where those skills fit together. .

And more than a body of knowledge, I wanted to level up every single person in the newsroom who ever hit “send tweet” with enough confidence to have an actual social strategy, including goals they came up with themselves, and an understanding of what they are doing to get there.

These are not only numerical goals: I asked them to come up with strategies that would help their work as journalists. Not to just get more people to see it, but to improve it, to widen their range of sources, to find new ways to tell a story.

Of course, none of this works without a solid grasp of the fundamentals.

And none of that could happen in a one hour course where people leaned back and watched a PowerPoint.

(Really, who wants to do that anyway?)

I came up with a six week course that we started calling “The Masterclass.” This was named after a similar skill-building class led by Sean Corcoran, a master audio craftsman. This course took reporters who had never done radio before and turned them into capable and confident radio reporters. That was my inspiration; I wanted to do that for social.

The six week course covered the fundamentals of all the core social platforms, a strong understanding of analytics, and critically, combined that with a key assignment: each reporter had to come up with their own strategic plan, something they could share with their editor.

The biggest surprise I got: A course that was a much bigger lift was much easier to fill than a one-hour, one-off training. People seemed way more committed to the course than they had been to isolated training.

Also, we had to do all this during a pandemic. Although we had 6 40 minute sessions (which I would not allow to run over), I wanted each participant to be able to see all course materials at any time, including after they’ve finished. I also knew that I might want to do it again.

So I evaluated available learning management systems and chose one that would allow me to lay out the course and its materials and easily enroll participants to allow them to keep track of their own work.

The course covers:

  • Breaking down a high traffic story. When a story succeeds, WHY does it succeed? We cover Google Analytics, social platform analytics, YouTube Analytics, and Crowdtangle.
  • Creating a personal plan for the part of your work that lives online. What are your goals as a reporter or producer? Which specific platforms and activities will help you get there, and how will you measure that? (We revisit the plan throughout the course).
  • Social visuals. Social is a visual medium. How do you get people to stop scrolling? What do you do when you don’t have a photographer? How do you collect assets so you can look great across platforms beyond the web? What are three things you can do to take a better picture even if you only have your phone?
  • Building a social package. Each story, episode, or project has a “social package.” Tweeting it once isn’t gonna get it. We teach a systematic way of laying out an entire package of social across all platforms, and how to decide things like timing and scheduling. Also: how to do that efficiently, because if you have to spend hours doing that you won’t do it.
  • Platform exploration. How do you figure out what platforms your work should be on? If you’re not on them, how do they start? We start a professional Instagram account from scratch, helping you understand what you need to look good and MAINTAIN a social account.
  • Final presentations. Participants share their plan and talk about how it has changed over the six weeks.

The entire class is available here (although you won’t be able to do things like take quizzes unless you’re enrolled in the class. But this allows you to drive around a little)

I’ll be giving it again in April of 2022. Got questions? Get at me on LinkedIn.