“There’s no shortage of places to get the national news,” said John Colucci, Senior Director of Social Media at Sinclair Broadcast Group. “You can turn on CNN, you can turn on FOX News, MSNBC, or go on to any number of national sites and find out what’s happening in D.C. and around the country, but especially right now with COVID-19 and everything we’re dealing with, people want to know what’s happening in their backyards more than ever. There’s such an appetite for it, and that’s really where we shine.”
Using his diverse experience, ranging from project management in retail to marketing in the airline industry, Colucci now oversees social media strategy for Sinclair Broadcast Group’s 193+ TV stations, cable TV, and digital properties across the United States.
In this episode of #Storyteller, Colucci reflects on covering news amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and explains the importance of local news outlets heading into the 2020 election cycle.
On how the pandemic has changed social media habits:
“One thing that I find interesting is there used to be set times in which people were on social media the most. You would see people are very active in the early part of the morning and then maybe around lunchtime when they’re taking a break at work, and then in the evening. Now it’s all over the place. You could have a high spike of activity at 9 am or 4 pm because people are working all these different shifts while working from home.”
On strategies for social content per network:
“It really depends on the story itself, and we actually start with not even thinking about monetization, or is it a photo or video. We start with, what’s the goal of this story? What’s the purpose of us getting this information out?
We always want to focus on the safety of our communities, so if it’s a story about a hurricane coming or some major traffic incident…or there are things that are going to affect people’s lives, we want to get that out in full context.
If it’s your everyday breaking news story, we want to make sure that information is out there first, so we’ll always prioritize getting it out on Twitter even if it’s just a blurb that this is happening, whether or not there’s a link to something. And then we look at Facebook. Facebook we do a little more TLC because of the way the algorithm works, so we have to think about first, do we have enough information to make a Facebook post? We need to have some kind of detail like a location, a city name, ideally some kind of rich media, or link to a story that has a nice lead image or video.”
On Sinclair’s approach to covering the COVID-19 pandemic:
“We wanted to focus on the local aspect. There was so much of the national story, and we really wanted to make sure people stayed focused on…okay yes there’s press conferences happening in D.C. and we want to give them that information, but we want to make sure we’re giving it with a local flavor.
This has changed a lot of what we do, but it’s really allowed us to emphasize at our core, the local news mission above everything else.”
On how stations are preparing to cover local elections:
“There’s no shortage of ways to find out what’s happening with the presidential election. But what sometimes gets swept under the rug a little bit, especially on social media, is the local elections. Take the presidential election aside, and there are still people running for Governor and Mayor, Congress and Senate, and then State Congress and Senate, and City Council, and all these positions that are really, really important to those communities.
There’s a lot of people making these huge decisions, especially decisions that relate to COVID relief as well as racial injustice and police reform. So…what we really want to do with our stations is make sure we’re shining a light on those candidates and also issues such as ballot initiatives, and make sure people understand what’s happening in their community.”
Looking for more tips and tricks on how to cover this election cycle? Check out Tagboard’s Guide to Election Coverage for Media Teams of All Sizes, and How to Tell Meaningful Real-Time Stories During the Debates.
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