Webinar held on 8 March 2021, 11:00 - 12:30 CET during CIRCOM's Learning From A Global Pandemic week-long programme of interactive Zoom sessions, 8 - 12 March 2021


The coronavirus pandemic has given public service broadcasters a renewed connection with their audiences, with levels of engagement and trust higher than ever - particularly at a local level. The dialogue between the two groups is a crucial part of how we move forward in a post- Covid-19 world, and at the heart of this communication is social media.

In this session, the opening webinar of the CIRCOM week “Learning From a Global Pandemic”, BBC England’s Head of Social Media, David Tracz was joined by digital journalists Hilde Lorentson and Oliver Ronning from Norwegian broadcaster NRK, and Bethan Evans from the BBC’s Bristol newsroom in the West of England.

The panel discussed how social media is an increasingly important tool for public service news organisations, both in terms of serving our existing audiences, and reaching new ones. It provides a real-time insight into the conversations people are having, and the issues that matter to them, which can help news organisations become more relevant to them. Also, social platforms are frequently the place where breaking news reaches the world - with the ability for “citizen journalists” to quickly share what they see - using video, photos and text uploaded from their mobile devices. In this sense, the social media audience can become an extension of the broadcaster’s news team. Oliver Ronning:We can’t be everywhere, but our audience can.

So how do we find this audience, and the stories they have to tell? The panel discussed tools that newsrooms can use, such as Crowdtangle, which allows journalists to keep across Facebook and Instagram pages, and Tweetdeck which follows keywords on Twitter. Bethan Evans used the example of a video posted on Twitter by a UK health worker called Dawn who visited a supermarket at the end of a busy hospital shift early in the pandemic, but was met with empty shelves due to people panic-buying. Dawn’s angry and tearful video, shot on her mobile phone, was picked up by a BBC newsroom and was used as an example in the UK’s national news conference the following day.

The key advice from the panelists was for journalists to set themselves small targets - find specific online groups to follow and interact with, rather than attempting too much too quickly; do not underestimate the audience, and the value of the contribution they can make - they can be your eyes and ears on the ground.

social listening