As part of a blueprint to expand its social media footprint, the Tahlequah Daily Press and tahlequahdailypress.com have added a key new element to the staff.
Sheri Gourd has joined the team as multimedia editor – the first such position in the history of the local media franchise. Al- though she has several duties, one of Gourd’s primary responsibilities will be to act as gatekeeper for TDP’s social media platforms.
Gourd has lived in Tahlequah since 2005, when she and her husband, Kris, moved here from St. Louis. That’s when she began dabbling in social media.
“My husband’s half-brother introduced me to My Space while I was a stay-at-home mom,” Gourd said. “I started looking around for stuff about Tahlequah because I didn’t know much about the town. I started a My Space page and included things I would find interesting, so I could learn more about the people around here.”
Gourd used that project as a launching pad to other social media platforms. She began networking on Twitter, and her interest in photography prompted her to get involved with image-sharing sites such as Instagram. What started as a hobby quickly transformed into a way of life, and Gourd soon began volunteering to help community organizations boost their profiles on social media.
She’s acted as a volunteer administrator for the “In Tahlequah” Facebook page and another local Twitter page. Tahlequah Mainstreet Director Drew Haley asked her to serve on his board to help him increase web presence. She’s served for four years on the Tahlequah Recreational Soccer Club Board, assisting with social media in that capacity, and she started Facebook and Twitter pages for The Northeastern, the local university’s student publication. She has also spearheaded local relief efforts in the wake of disasters like a spate of wildfires and the Moore tornado, using social media to spur involvement.
TDP has been engaged in the Facebook community since 2009, at facebook.com/tdpress, which boasts nearly 7,200 “likes.” But when Publisher David Compton took the helm in February, he brought with him the understanding that newspapers must evolve to survive in today’s rapidly-changing media environment – and that means offering several ways of engaging readers.
Shortly before Gourd joined the team, TDP added Twitter (@TahlequahTDP) to its lineup, which also includes an e-edition; the website tahlequahdailypress.com, which has been named Best Website for two years in a row during the state’s Associated Press Oklahoma New Executives contest; and the core print product, which this year won General Excellence in the AP ONE contest.
Twitter is especially important, Gourd said, because of its immediacy.
“It’s more about micro-blogging in short bursts, and it’s great for news updates,” she said. “The demographics for social media vary, so with a variety of sources, we’re getting a better reach into the community and the world.”
Most recently, TDP established a presence at Instagram and Pinterest, and Gourd will be brainstorming with other staff members on how to most effectively use these sites.
“These social media sites will augment the Press’ reach to readers of all ages and backgrounds, and offer new and innovative ways of communicating with them, and allowing them to interact with us,” said Kim Poindexter, managing editor. “We’re excited to have someone with Sheri’s background to help us expand our digital presence.”
Readership numbers for the Tahlequah Daily Press/tahlequahdailypress.com have never been stronger. In July 2013, total hits on tahlequahdailypress.com rose to over 332,493, an increase of 13 percent compared to July 2012. Unique visitors saw an increase of 33 percent over that same time period.
“Our ultimate goal is to engage readers where they are most comfortable. Sheri has a proven track record of community involvement and branding through social media and digital platforms,” said Compton. “We are glad to have her on our team as we continue to be the leader in Tahlequah and Cherokee County for news, information and marketing.”