Screenshot from Afro LA TikTok guide

Starting on TikTok? How to create newsroom-specific guidelines

A shared style and tips guide can add consistency to experimentation

With a small newsroom and intern turnover, AfroLA wanted to find a way to encourage team members to experiment on TikTok while maintaining a consistent voice and style. The Innovation in Focus team partnered with the Los Angeles-based news organization to create a guide that would ensure brand consistency and collaboration as they began to create TikTok content.

To create this guide, we made three different video styles to post on TikTok and repost on Instagram. During the process of filming, editing and posting, we gathered practical tips based on the process and how well each video performed (including comments, likes, shares, etc.).

First steps: Inspiration, examples

The first thing we did before creating any videos was to identify newsrooms that seemed to do a good job of connecting with their local communities on TikTok.

We reviewed TikTok videos by The Emancipator, The Markup and The Baltimore Banner, all with different styles of content: Speaking directly in the camera, voiceovers and short and long-form videos.

Screenshot from a TikTok video

Here are a few of the videos we took inspiration from:

Set deadlines and establish goals

We wanted to explore what the process is like to have an idea, gather visuals/audio, edit, review, post on TikTok and engage with viewers on the platform. To do this, we needed to set deadlines for these steps and create a system for documenting our notes.

First, we decided on three types of videos to create:

  • A feature of a Black-owned business
    • Short video with a voice-over narration and subtitles
    • Easily connected to the existing Buy Black LA series
  • A longer-form “about us” video for AfroLA
    • Especially since they were just starting on TikTok, we wanted to create a transparent “who we are” type video.
  • A video based on a reported story
    • Included a recorded interview
    • A good opportunity because a story was already in progress, and a team member saw an opportunity to make a related video.

For us, a reasonable timeline to complete these three videos was four to six weeks. We gathered all the documents we needed, such as the brand and style guides, and put everything in a shared Google Drive folder.

It was helpful to find one or two people who would take the lead on editing each video. Since our two editors lived in different cities, they pulled from videos in a shared drive and edited their TikToks separately, comparing different versions.

The two video editors shared their versions in a Google Doc and made comments to compare them during the editing process.
The two video editors shared their versions in a Google Doc and made comments to compare them during the editing process.

Add tips to the guide as you learn

We created our guide in Google Docs and shared it with each member of the team, so they could add practical tips and lessons they learned as they created TikToks.

For example, we learned little things that we wanted to include in our guide, like:

  • Use an adaptable microphone to collect audio especially in noisy environments.
  • Create an intro or outro that resonates with your viewers and is consistent to your brand
  • When to include background music in certain videos

We shared general tips for creating any TikTok video too, such as advice to write a script and shot list before starting to record. We organized the guide chronologically, so someone could easily follow step-by-step as they make a TikTok for AfroLA.

Some of these steps/headings included:

  • Before you get started
    • Whether someone had a lot of video experience or none at all, we included tips on planning out your video, as well as advice on where to find equipment like local libraries.
  • What to include in every video
    • This is where we linked to templates and logos. Every video needed to include an outro video clip, the AfroLA logo, brand colors, alt text, subtitles and a selected thumbnail.
  • Editing tips
    • We included a linked list of editing apps and tools, such as CapCut, Videoleap, and VN, that can make this process easier/quicker.
    • We documented the font type and size, the color selection and design elements for subtitles.
    • It helped to edit with another person to bounce ideas off each other. We found editing took from one to five hours depending on the style of the video and editor. 
  • After posting
    • Knowing that immediately responding to comments on TikTok can boost the video, we built that into the workflow for each video posted.
    • Taking note of the views and shares on each video also helped show which videos we could adapt and build upon.

Create tips for specific types of videos

For each type of video that we tested, we gathered specific tips, examples and other inspiration. Here are some examples of what we learned:

  • If we’re featuring a business…
    • It’s best to create something short and simple, focusing on the uniqueness of the business.
  • If we’re sharing information about AfroLA …
    • Working with a professional photographer helped collect B-roll of local and popular areas in the LA communities.
  • If we’re collaborating with a reporter on a story …
    • Emphasize the importance of collecting clear audio and recording more B-roll than needed. 

Style tips: Hashtags, thumbnails, cross-posting on Instagram

AfroLA posted their first TikTok on a Tuesday in the late morning. Within the next 24 hours there had already been more than 1,000 views with 20 new followers. We used hashtags that centered around the brand name like #afrolanews #afrola, around the topic of the post such as #blackowned #booktok #labookstore, and other relevant hashtags like #trending #foryoupage.

After one week the TikTok has reached more than 2,000 views and 200 likes and continues to grow. After posting on TikTok, AfroLA’s intern Robbi Gallegos published an article explaining the newsroom’s approach to the platform.

Screenshot from Afro LA news on TikTok

Next steps

Our overall goal was to create more structure around TikTok experiments so that we could continue to build upon these lessons learned and develop a clear strategy. 

Any employee assigned to create content for TikTok can now look at the steps and make videos using our AfroLA TikTok guide. The hope is that the AfroLA newsroom will continue to add onto the guide with examples and tips as they experiment further.  Anyone is welcome to copy this guide and adapt it for their newsroom.

IIF: Innovation in Focus

Sign up for the Innovation in Focus Newsletter to get our articles, tips, guides and more in your inbox each month!

Cite this article

Williams, Kendall (2024, July 8). Starting on TikTok? How to create newsroom-specific guidelines. Reynolds Journalism Institute. Retrieved from:

Related Stories

Expand All Collapse All

Comments are closed.