Braunschweiger Zeitung meets brand trust head on with community engagement

By Armin Maus and Maria Böhme

Braunschweiger Zeitung

Braunschweig, Germany

Journalists in Germany, like in much of the media world, have experienced a loss of relevance. With the classic print newspaper under great pressure, Braunschweiger Zeitung deepens reader loyalty by being an active part of its community — taking on their problems and assisting them in finding solutions.

In addition, German newspapers have been the focus of attacks by extreme right-wing propaganda, which has impugned newspapers and networks with the term “Lügenpresse” — an insult used extensively by the Nazis during our country’s darkest years.

Our answer to this assault upon our credibility is to continually increase our engagement and close relationship with our readers, as well as to operate with maximum transparency, including a neutral ombudsman that publishes his verdict in a weekly column.

The Antworten section of Braunschweiger Zeitung newspaper is a forum for readers' questions.
The Antworten section of Braunschweiger Zeitung newspaper is a forum for readers' questions.

To us, journalism is more than simply recording what is happening; it is also a question of bringing people together and giving them a voice. We use the concept “Bürgerzeitung” to demonstrate our compassion and solidarity with our readers every single day. The concept was initiated by Paul-Josef Raue, then editor-in-chief of Braunschweiger Zeitung, and has been further developed by  other members of the team.

We also aim to transcend the classical role of news journalism towards a lasting partnership. Digital has given us an opportunity to shift from a mass-media approach to a more individualised one. We are quite proud that we cope with the requirements of a changing and challenging concept with a small staff. 

Because we are located in the Braunschweig-Wolfsburg region — one of the most important centers of science, research, and development, and home of Europe’s largest car manufacturer — we are lucky to work within a community of well-trained, open-minded, and often internationally experienced citizens. Our concept is beyond the ordinary, because the people around us are. 

Compared to average circulation figures, Braunschweiger Zeitung holds its ground quite well: Our print circulation drops at an average of 3%, which is compensated by gains in digital sales and reach.

Our Bürgerzeitung campaign has brought us in physical contact with about 6,500 readers at 50 various events we held throughout 2016. These events included meetings with our ombudsman, readers’ conferences, community evenings, discussions, workshops with adult and adolescent readers, and reader’s interviews — all of which provide us with ample journalistic material as well.

Additional initiatives under Bürgerzeitung include:

  • “Antworten” (answers) is a section of our newspaper where we answer reader questions, which have numbered several hundred so far.
  • “Alarm38” is our app through which readers can make complaints about problems in public life, such as school security, environmental hazards or public health shortcomings. We have handled all 3,127 complaints made through Alarm38, with 1,870 solved. Readers also posted 19,828 of their own comments to address the problems. Many of these topics have found their way to the pages of our newspaper, connecting us more to our readers’ everyday lives.

Our mission to become our readers’ companion has allowed us to make improvements in both detail and on a larger scale; and our readers realise that our team is working hard to take part in their lives. They endow us with their trust and appreciation, while our team has gained  deep insights into the needs of our readers.

They are our guideline towards providing relevant journalism for years to come.  

About Armin Maus and Maria Böhme

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