On tour with WyoFile: Building trust with face-to-face contact

Credit: Flickr / jstephenconn

Why is a digital news organization going on tour? To return to the age-old and proven method of face-to-face relationships to build support, loyalty, and increased brand recognition.

WyoFile was recently awarded a competitive INNovation grant from the Institute of Nonprofit News and the Knight Foundation of $20,000 to experiment with grassroots outreach in rural areas as means of increasing visits to our website. The strategy here is not a shot in the dark.

Gallup released a report, Trust in Mass Media Returns to All Time Low (September 17, 2014), indicating that trust in the media among the general population has fallen 40 percent. Those of us in the news industry quiver at numbers like this, especially non-profit news outlets like WyoFile that rely on the loyalty and trust of our readers.

BUILDING TRUST

What better way to build trust among potential readers than face-to-face interactions? We innately trust those we have met more so than those we have not met, and there’s no more powerful connection than to look someone in the eye and ask for their trust.

We trust those who have confidence, and what better way to show confidence than to meet our readers in person. WyoFile’s editor-in-chief, Dustin Bleizeffer often says, “It’s all about names and faces,” and I would add to that, “and a personal hand shake.”

Editorial staff. Credit: WyoFile

Editorial staff. Credit: WyoFile

This experiment will be to test the waters of trust. In the past, movements of millions were built on person-to-person contact. We may not be striving for a movement of millions, but we are striving for a movement that will build a thirst for investigative journalism and quality news that readers can trust. Face-to-face relationships that will hold news organizations to a higher standard of unblemished, ethical, and uncompromising coverage of the issues that are important to us as individuals, communities, states, and as a nation.

BECOMING A TRUSTED MESSENGER

I used to skate for a roller derby league in Denver, Colorado. Naturally, I gained a lot of roller derby Facebook friends. As a lifelong news junkie, I like to be informed about what’s happening around me and share those stories on Facebook. Unsurprisingly, I would post any stories I believed my network should know about. After a few weeks, others skaters began talking to me about the stories I posted. Occasionally, some would tell me that my Facebook page was their morning paper. In fact, one skater told me that she only read the news stories posted on my Facebook page.

Why? Because she trusts me. A trusted messenger is key to building an informed public. Trust in the producers of news, in the reporters, and in the outlet is even more important. This is why WyoFile will be going on tour.

This post appeared in the Idea Lab blog and has been republished with permission.