Editor’s note: This story is taken from Ragan Communications’ distance-learning portal Ragan Training. The site contains hundreds of hours of case studies, video presentations and interactive courses.
If your organization accrues 2 billion video views for a single event on social media, you might have a few storytelling tips for the rest of us pipsqueaks.
In fairness to pipsqueaks, the organization in question is ABC News’ ‘Good Morning America,’ the nation’s No. 1 morning news show.
Also, the event that drew such a firestorm of interest was a British royal wedding, and those spectacles have a way of turning even the most republican sans-culotte into a giddy fan of unelected dynastic overlords.
Still, in the Ragan Training video, “‘Go the distance’ to captivate and engage your target audience online,” Terry Hurlbutt of “Good Morning America” offered enough storytelling gems to fill a royal vault in the Tower of London.
In a discussion with Jake Jacobson, director of public relations at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, Hurlbutt offers lessons from the content and distribution strategy has expanded GMA’s target audience by 70 percent since 2018.
Hurlbutt led the launch of GMA’s website, a newsletter and an original slate of video franchises and features.
Here’s how GMA pulls it all together to produce social media posts and channels that amplify, support and work alongside the morning TV broadcasts.
Are you one of those folks who reach for a smartphone on the bed-stand first thing in the morning? Hurlbutt’s team prepares its newsletter and other social media content with you in mind.
“You’re reaching over,” she says. “You’re pulling that up first thing in the morning. We’ve designed the newsletter so you can get the most important news of the day, followed by inspiring stuff that kind of makes you want to get up in the morning.”
GMA knows what stories viewers and followers care about: “real people stories.” Example: Roman Dinkel, a 2-year-old with spina bifida who was captured in a video showing his dog he can walk with the help of crutches.
“Look, Maggie,” he chirps. “I’m walking, Maggie.”
GMA put together a viral video featuring Roman, then invited him, his parents and Maggie to be on the show.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) October 31, 2018
“The world is really full of inspiring stories every day,” Hurlbutt says. “What’s a privilege often is our ability to go and find them and elevate those stories to a wider audience.”
2. Adapt the story to the medium.
GMA has always been known for informational stories and news, and that’s true across multiple platforms. It adapts the story it’s telling, however, to the channel.
For each story, think not just which platform is right, but how to adapt the story so it makes the most sense for those who consume it there.
“What is the story we’re trying to tell?” Hurlbutt says. “What is the heart of it? And then how do we adapt that story to a different medium?”
Hurlbutt’s team gives a lot of thought to what the Facebook experience looks like, and how people engage with the content in the news feed.
By contrast, “Instagram Stories is much more about: Let’s take you behind the scenes, and take you to different events, and make you feel that whole experience.”
3. Remember that social media differs from TV.
On GMA’s broadcast, viewers invite the anchors into their homes each morning. On Facebook or Instagram, however, most people see your posts as conversations shared among friends.
Whereas TV anchors deliver news from a desk, an image of deskbound journalists is not the most grabby visual image for someone scrolling through Facebook.
“We take, oftentimes, the hosts out of the picture, and we focus it really strongly on the subject,” Hurlbutt says. “A lot of straight-to-camera work, a lot of really digging around and finding inspirational stories from user-generated content.”
GMA’s team often has conversations with correspondents in the field about how to present interviews for social media. Sometimes the journalists ask if it’s better to shoot a phone video selfie-style, with the interviewer and interviewee both in the frame.
“We’re like, ‘Yeah, actually, do it selfie style, and that will work much better on Instagram,’” Hurlbutt says.
4. Plan ahead and use all your assets for big stories.
Knowing the popularity of royal weddings, GMA livestreamed the nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and “had a full-court press planned for social. We had already prepped.”
They prepared a story strategy for Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, covering not just the wedding itself, but related matters such as watch parties and royal dresses.
“That’s what’s fun about the digital space,” Hurlbutt says. “You can be really interactive with your audience, too, and responsive in the moment.”
5. Expand your viewpoint.
GMA’s digital team has a wealth of broadcast material to draw from. Still, they ask themselves, “How do we extend stories that really feel digital-first?”
If a chef does a cooking show, GMA often shoots not only an interview, but a top-down version of the preparation of the dish. Same goes for that do-it-yourself recipe for Valentine’s Day slime you’ve been longing to give your loved one.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) February 8, 2019
“And suddenly,” Hurlbutt says, “you’ve taken a story that works for broadcast in one form, and now you’ve extended it to digital in a way that feels natural to the conversation.”
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