The Miami Herald

Lebron and Basketball; Social Media and Me

When looking around for open full-time positions, one of the qualifications often required is being familiar with social media practices. In interviews, one of the most important questions I hear is whether I know how to track and report on analytics.

My response is usually the same: while I haven’t been a “social media editor,” every job I’ve had has involved using social media tools. I use it to share content, engage the audience, crowdsource, gather insights, and inform the newsroom about what our audience finds compelling or not as well as what they would like to see more of.

One of the biggest social media campaigns I worked on was a Lebron James Poetry contest for The Miami Herald. At the time, I was drafting surveys meant to collect insights on different topics from a network of sources called the Public Insight Network.

Using a feature within the PIN software that tracked the number of people that opened my email with the survey, clicked on the link to the survey, and actually filled it out, I realized that about 10 percent of recipients would actually open the email. And anywhere from no one to two percent of the recipients would actually fill out the surveys. (Some of the extra participants would come in from clicking on the survey link shared on Twitter and Facebook, but the response was much lower than via email.) But there was one factor that would slightly spike up those numbers – when the subject of the survey was related to pop culture, sports, or Cuba.

So Dan Grech, the former news director for WLRN’s Miami Herald News, came to me with this idea to partner up with O, Miami Poetry Festival on a social media campaign. It was July 2010 when Lebron announced he would be taking his talents to South Beach. Naturally, we tied the contest to what was hot in the news cycle (and to our audience).

As a result, the contest received over 1,200 entries – well, over the typical two percent of recipients – and national coverage, including by ESPN and The New Yorker.

So social media may not be my main responsibility, but it is essential in almost every job I do, almost in the way that Lebron is still playing basketball no matter what team he’s playing for.

P.S. Since this was a successful social media campaign, The Miami Herald has continued to organize similar poetry contests even after I was no longer working there.

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Front of the Business Section

As part of an internship at The Miami Herald, my beat for an entire year was to cover a small town south of Homestead called Florida City. Every other week, I would go to the city council meetings to find issues worth reporting. And in between, I wrote features.

Because it was a small town, I started to feel a part of it. Mayor Otis T. Wallace, who had been the mayor for almost two decades, and the other council members were very sweet with me and always willing to provide information and answer my questions. I even bumped into my elementary school principal – a local and friend of the mayor. Small world!

So it became pretty interesting to learn the ins and outs of Florida City’s administration and to see it grow in ways outsiders wouldn’t expect.

My biggest story on this town turned up on the business section’s front page for the Herald. (But read it on this blog that picked up the story.) A colleague told me it took her five years to accomplish the same thing. You might expect me to boast at this point, but instead I’d like to thank my editor at the time, Donna Gehrke-White, for mentoring me. She was very hands-on and taught me how to write a decent news story.

Thank you Donna!