Positive stories help Telegraph reach new audiences and engagement levels during lockdown

By Shelley Seale

INMA

Austin, Texas, USA

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When the coronavirus pandemic began to hit epic proportions across the world in March, The Telegraph realised it had to adapt to meet readers in new ways. The team met the challenge with a new product aimed at not only providing news and information to its readers, but giving them support as well.

The result was “You Are Not Alone,” a collection of initiatives and supportive stories to showcase community spirit, launched by The Telegraph’s Features, Community, and Social teams.

“It was a very uncertain time,” said McKenna Grant, head of digital lifestyle at The Telegraph as she presented an in-depth look at the initiative to INMA members in an exclusive Webinar.

McKenna Grant of the Telegraph presented a Webinar highlighting the You Are Not Alone initiative.
McKenna Grant of the Telegraph presented a Webinar highlighting the You Are Not Alone initiative.

“It [coronavirus] was not going away, and we really had to buckle down and figure out how our audience was feeling and to get in touch with our readers.”

The teams got together to brainstorm what that could look like. They came to the conclusion that while there was plenty of gloom and doom in the world, they wanted to focus on the small glimmers of hope and positive stories.

The campaign was launched on March 18 with a strong message of bringing Britain together in a united way to face the pandemic.

“It was talking to readers, listening to them, engaging with them, really figuring out how we could help,” Grant said. “We wanted to create a space to ensure that our readers were not only speaking to us, but they were also speaking to like-minded readers.”

You Are Not Alone is the new initiative from the Telegraph focusing on positive stories and support during the pandemic.
You Are Not Alone is the new initiative from the Telegraph focusing on positive stories and support during the pandemic.

You Are Not Alone hub

You Are Not Alone also provided a community hub with tips for readers. Community was really at the heart of the entire project, Grant said.

“Social connectivity was more important than ever, and we really wanted to make sure our readers realised that physical isolation never means complete isolation. They have a community with us.”

You Are Not Alone was featured in The Telegraph’s print newspaper spreads for months, as well as the online hub that acted as a destination for:

  • First-person experiences.
  • Latest guidance and advice.
  • Feel-good content.
  • Stories from all verticals of Lifestyle.
  • Live chats, expert Q&As and community support.

This digital hub is refreshed multiple times a day and promoted across Telegraph platforms. High reader engagement was key, as the goal was for it to be a two-way conversation.

“We wanted to make sure this was the go-to for everything our readers needed,” Grant said.

The Telegraph Community hubs were vital as ways to reach readers in every way possible.

“We wanted to make sure we were tapping into not only the social communities but also niche communities as well,” she explained. “This was an opportunity for our readers to post their own questions and engage in conversation.”

The communities also provided a great resource for Telegraph staff to see what the biggest concerns and talking points were amongst its audience.

The online hub and communities were vital aspects for two-way interaction and engagement.
The online hub and communities were vital aspects for two-way interaction and engagement.

Journalist-reader interaction

The two-way conversation and interaction between Telegraph editorial and readers was a vital part of the initiative. Things such as the expert Q&A segments were something The Telegraph did every single day, along with web chats with Lifestyle writers.

The journalist-reader interaction also included things such as regular film and theatre “watch-alongs,” Facebook live pub quizzes, creative writing competitions, and Telegraph Teaches, focusing on practical guidance during lockdown on everything from cooking to home schooling.

Journalists conversing within the comments of these communities was important, and happened all day, every day.

“If we saw that a topic was resonating with our readers, we thought it was important to put a face to the name and get our writers to write in the comments section,” Grant said.

Newsletters

With more than 50 newsletters, The Telegraph had a ready method of delivering its best content directly to readers, keeping up a constant flow of information. A daily You Are Not Alone newsletter was launched, encouraging readers to share their own experiences and connect with each other.

“It was important that this content — and sense of personal positivism — was being delivered straight to our readers’ inboxes,” Grant said.

The newsletter has since morphed into “Good News,” highlighting positive stories and keeping optimism up.

“It’s a way to cut through the daily gloom and doom of the news and focus on things that will make us happy,” she added.

Series and podcasts

Capitalising on The Telegraph’s many podcasts, new episodes and series were created that focused on everything from physical and mental health to polls and quizzes.

The team uses Snapchat to engage with its younger audiences.

Some of the most successful of these were the daily dose of calm, giving tips on how to relax and deal with the situation, and daily news quizzes.

Tales of good in the community

“Although we had all these news stories and we were trying to showcase as much positive and good in the world as we could, there were so many little glimmers of hope happening in the U.K. that we just didn’t know about yet,” Grant said.

Highlighting positive stories and unexpected heroes proved to engage readers in high numbers.
Highlighting positive stories and unexpected heroes proved to engage readers in high numbers.

The team thought, why not make that into an initiative in which the readers could share their own positive stories? That led to the launch of the Lockdown Awards, in which readers could nominate unexpected heroes of the coronavirus crisis. The awards received thousands of submissions.

“It was really extraordinary to see the lengths that people were going to offer their support,” Grant shared. “I was blown away by the amount of engagement and how many people were willing to vote for their unexpected heroes.”

In the end, more than 40,000 people voted in the Lockdown Awards, making it a huge success.

Helping the less fortunate

Another aspect of the initiative was making sure help was available and rendered to those who needed it. The team launched a Coronavirus Appeal, to which readers could donate for this effort. Nearly €$1.5 million was raised.

Subscriptions were also funded and made available to National Healthcare Service workers, and The Telegraph offered readers assistance via different deals such as free delivery service and free digital editions for print subscribers.

“It was a campaign that really connected the dots between print, digital, social media, community, and also outside people as well,” Grant said. “It was exactly what we were striving for — to be there for our readers with what they needed to know, but also some of the resources they might not realise they needed yet and stories that could help them everyday through this crisis.”

The Telegraph not only reached its primary British audience, but also many readers from outside the U.K., she said: “It was definitely a massive success for us. Some of the lessons learned were that readers inspire us every day. And it’s an audience that we continue to grow.”

About Shelley Seale

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