Putting Mayer’s research to work

Jodi Gersh
Jodi Gersh

Around 2012, Jodi Gersh was travelling to various large Gannett newsrooms and running engagement workshops.

She had recently pioneered the first social media position inside Gannett, and now she was helping the company figure out how it could meet its readers on these powerful platforms they were using. She used Joy Mayer’s Community Engagement: A Practical Conversation for Newsrooms as a kind of playbook.

“The guide itself helped me a lot in thinking about how to address the newsroom and get them to think about engagement in different ways,” Gersh says.

She especially liked the large-print pages of value statements at the end of the book, statements such as, “We actively reach beyond our core audience.” She would take those printouts, grab a roll of tape, arrive early to her workshops and tape them up around the room.

“I’d ask people to look at the various questions and answer them,” she says. “ ‘Are we doing that? How are we doing that?’ ”

At that time, the idea of social media engagement was more one-sided. Social media platforms were seen as a means of distribution, not yet as a means for conversation, which is where Gersh was pushing.

“It was a lot of Twitter 101 training, not about holding community office hours in coffee shops and letting them decide what is important to cover,” Gersh remembers. “I didn’t have a way to formulate what I was thinking, and the guide opened it up for me.”

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