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Four Tools I Use To Cover My Area

The fields covered through Baptist communications are as varied as the tools at your disposal. In the almost-nine years since I began working at The Christian Index, a number of online avenues have developed to keep up with our readers, which in turn give us a clue as to concentrating story coverage.

Rather than an exhaustive list of these tools, here are four you need to establish or begin building today.

  1. Blog lists  There are several ways to do this, such as RSS feeds, following particular blogs the way I do on Wordpress, or simply setting up a folder and storing links there. On Google Reader I've established two subscription lists pertinent to The Index's coverage area: Georgia Baptist Convention ministers and GBC laypeople.

    Since feeling its impact at the 2006 Southern Baptist annual meeting in Greensboro, SBC leadership has had a tenuous relationship with the blogosphere. Today, it's becoming more the exception for pastors to not have a blog. Don't just keep up with what's on their minds, but considering those blogs as possible sources for your next story.

  2. Hootsuite  I used the free version for awhile, but finally sprung for the $6 a month upgrade and it's been a great investment. Through this program I can post to various social media outlets at the same time, but the biggest benefit is scheduling a post through those resources  Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, etc..

    Each morning, one of the first things I do is go through my Reader and check out GBC pastor blog posts. I then take those posts and schedule them at various times through the lunch hour when people are more prone to check Twitter and Facebook. Should lunchtime get crowded I'll schedule posts toward the end of the workday and, depending on the topic, even on Sunday morning when many pastors are posting to Twitter.

  3. Twitter lists  Everyone knows about Twitter, but an underused feature is Lists. Want to know what your target readership is Tweeting but not dig through a hundred posts to get there? Create a list. I have my GBC list as well as SBC media and SBC. In writing this post I realized I didnt have one for BCA, so you'll see from my Twitter account (@scottbarkley) that it's in the initial stages. Lists can be public or private, and in looking through them you can choose who out of that list to follow or with one click follow them all.

    A couple of weeks ago the reporting of Baptist Press and Tim Ellsworth prompted me to create an Olympics list so I could keep up with the athletes they profiled. I ended up adding more athletes from the Games, which gave me a look into how a persons strict diet goes to pot when you get a break after years of strict training. So whether work-related or just for an interest (football season is upon us), lists are great for chopping up your Twitter timeline.

  4. Google Maps.  A few months ago I created a map using this free tool for showing where Georgia Baptist churches were going on missions. For me, the information was fairly easy to attain through either the aforementioned Google Reader or old-school paper church newsletters that still come to The Index offices. Im also in the process of creating a map showing where Index writers have reported from this year.

With the exception of the Hootsuite upgrade, all of these tools are free and can add not only to your story-gathering, but story-telling capabilities.

POSTED: Aug 21, 2012 | Scott Barkley, Production Editor, The Christian Index - sbarkley@christianindex.org


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