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A Few Ideas for Using Slack in Public Media

By August 17, 2015August 9th, 2019Digital Strategy

It’s got massive buzz right now, but what does Slack mean for community radio?

Public media and community radio are often contending with resource stress of all kinds. We’re perpetually looking for a leg up so that we can offer audiences the kind of engagement commercial media still can’t deliver. Technology, from social media to open-source tools, have become a thrilling way for us to do it.

But in this vast sea of sundry websites, applications and chunks of code, it is difficult to find tools with the flexibility small to medium organizations need. At the same time, it is urgent for these organizations to be competitive and apply technology. Our financial futures demand it.

There are less tense reasons too. It is important for community radio in particular to take advantage of cool tech as much as possible because it has never been simpler. Not only is the entry cheap, and learning curves are getting smaller and smaller, but how we work — and more critically, how we think of our possibilities for work — dramatically changes with great tools before us.

If you’re looking to get your community media group flexing some technical muscles a little, and also to expand how you think of your relationship with audiences, consider Slack, a free app that is abundant in possibilities.

Since Nieman covered the New York Times‘ use of Slack for curating stories on social media, there’s growing interest in the startup’s applications for media organizations. Perhaps Slack has uses that could be helpful for your station and its coverage.

What exactly is Slack? The two-year-old company, now valued into the millions of dollars, provides a sort of instant messaging tool for organizations. Your organization can create a general messaging method as well as public and private groups based on your teams. It is text-based, and allows groups to have a savable record of chats.

Longtime Internet users may recognize some of Slack’s commands, which bear a resemblance to Internet Relay Chat, or IRC, an old-school chat method. For instance, /me produces your name, i.e. “/me wants saag paneer” appears as “Ernesto wants saag paneer”). Those familiar with Twitter will recognize @ and names to message people publicly or DM for direct message.

What use is Slack to you? Well, Slack has many applications, including improving workflow. Its nicest feature is cutting down on an organization’s back-and-forth email, Google Chats and other communications by centralizing short messages It’s also great to find one place for a subject instead of having to dig through that email with a link someone sent two weeks ago. Oh yeah, don’t forget it’s free, even for a large group. There are even desktop, iOS and Android apps, as well as web access.

A few ideas for your radio station, journalism team or online outlet come immediately to mind:

Improving News Coverage. The Slack channel ModernJourno has become a hub for reporters following journalism and media innovations. However, the sky’s the limit for any public media organization. Slack is a wonderful place to follow trends, if you’re not subscribed to the dozens of newsletters out there, thus saving you some time.

Elections. Many cities and states are seeing elections this year. In Houston and other municipalities, a variety of ballot measures are sure to stir emotion and interest. How about setting up channels for each of your area races, and the latest on city votes, which can then be shared with your staff?

Fundraising Ideas. What non-profit media group isn’t stressing about fundraising? All of us are looking for fresh ideas, pitches, premiums, success stories and learned lessons. Slack is a place where your development and membership teams can collect relevant discussions.

Tech Tracking. Every organization has technical issues, from server fixes to hardware and network matters. Many have bottlenecks of one ot two people. Few small organizations have trouble ticket systems. Perhaps a group of your technical folks can be built and get messages as issues arise, emergencies come up and so forth?

While many of us deal with Luddites in our organizations, Slack is one of the easiest apps to learn and to use. Its potential to make work less burdensome, more effective and less cluttered also makes it attractive to anyone who might not entirely ‘get’ the online work renaissance happening around us. Its openness means Slack’s applications for your community radio station or non-profit media organization are quite limitless.

Technology can help tip the scales more in public media’s favor. Slack is but one example.

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