What’s the hype over hyperlocal? If you’re in comms, PR, or marketing, you shouldn’t be asking that question

By Rachel Moss | 28th Jan 2015

The media landscape is changing. It’s something I blogged about last year in a post called ‘Regional News is Dead’. And, as a former TV news broadcaster, turned PR pro, I find it absolutely fascinating.

Well established local newspapers, radio stations and TV newsrooms, are being axed or cut right back to the bone.

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 11.28.23Meanwhile, 100’s of nubile little hyperlocals are springing up all over the place, eagerly plugging the gaps to give local communities the info they so desperately need and want.

It’s a riptide of cross currents that, as comms professionals, we really need to dive into.

That’s why I signed up last year to do the MOOC (short for Massive Open Online Course) in community journalism. It’s a free online course developed by Cardiff University’s School of Journalism and hosted on the ‘futurelearn’ website.

I wanted to understand more about the regional revolution that’s taking place. And, all I can say is I’m glad I did.

Not knowing what to expect, I was so impressed with the blend of academic and more journalistic approaches to learning. There were plenty of video tutorials and presentations leading you through the theory of community journalism, history of the sector and other fundamentals – such as media law (always useful to have a refresher on that!). There were also loads of links to recommended further reading, if you wanted to dig deeper into anything.

I really enjoyed the video case studies from people – at home and abroad – who have set up community journalism sites. To hear them talk about their successes, challenges, business models and how they manage their platforms day-to-day, was truly inspirational.

But, particularly useful to me, were the practical demonstrations and walk-through videos. I learnt valuable tips, for example, on how to start up a hyperlocal site – the DIY technology out there. There were also sessions on how to manipulate photos; create your own graphics; how to find people to interview using new advanced search techniques on facebook and twitter – and the pitfalls to avoid.

That, along with the fact that by completing the course I got 30 CIPR CPD points, made the effort worthwhile.

It’s the best 4 hours a week (for 5 weeks) that I could have invested last year on professional development and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

In my role as Head of Communications for the Wales Audit Office, it’s vital that I and my team engage closely with hyperlocals to get the important messages about the work we do to the people who need to know.

We connect almost daily with community channels – such as Aberdare Online, the Caerphilly Observer and Radio Cardiff. And, now more recently, we have a new hyperlocal TV station – Made in Cardiff.

As a public sector comms team, we’re riding this new media wave – and enjoying the experience.

You can’t afford to get left behind. And, if you sign up to this course – which is running again in March 2015 – you won’t!

Rachel Moss spent ten years as a network TV journalist, reporting and presenting for ITV national news, Channel Five News, the BBC and Meridian Television. In 2005, she moved into PR and Communications and is currently the Head of Communications for the Wales Audit Office. Rachel is a member of the CIPR, an Accredited Practitioner and member of CommsCymru. She lives in Newport with her husband and three young boys.

Image accompanying this article is copyright Naixn

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