Community management in journalism and beyond…

Bear with me; I’m kicking off my post with Perez Hilton. A grown man who draws child-like scribbles over photos to help make his point or insults and swears at public figures is obviously not worried about looking professional to the very large community of gossip-fans he has amassed. Indeed, his personality is the attraction of his blog.

Journalists however, for obvious reasons, cannot use their personalities in this way or brandish such blatant unprofessionalism. Journalists, and community managers, not only represent their newspapers but an industry which claims to hold professionalism in the utmost importance.

Kate Day, The Daily Telegraph’s online communities editor, seems to benefit from using her personality to help build the Telegraph’s community.

With more than 5,000 followers on Twitter, 9000 tweets, interviews on YouTube and a fairly strong online presence Day seems to be the most high profile newspaper community manager in the UK. Her online communications are always friendly, punctuated with humour and she lets readers know a few titbits about her personal life (such as missing the train or getting stuck in the rain).

She uses social networks and her own photography blog (via the Telegraph’s website) to attract new readers and maintain the community.

But of course Day maintains a sense of professionalism at all times – she has never reveals too much personal information or crosses a line.

In a short interview with Journalism.co.uk she said something interesting about confrontational commentators:

“Online communities can undoubtedly turn hostile, particularly around more confrontational subjects, and it can be tricky when you’re in the middle of it. In general, the more engaged you are with a community, the more you listen and view everything you do as part of a conversation, the less confrontational things become.”

By actively engaging viewing the Telegraph’s community as more than just readers Day has built up a strong relationship with them.

Professional detachment is sometimes necessary, as is objectivity, but does this mean necessarily mean we have to shut out our readers? The people we are meant to serve? Is the future of journalism reliant on breaking down such barriers?

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