Boosting Engagement and Growth: How a Post-Production Tic-Tac-Toe Board Could Help Your Online Publication and Staff

As a first-year adviser of a student online media publication, one of the gaps I’ve noticed is in my own facilitation of the student workflow post-publication.  Typically, most students publish by our monthly publication deadline and are ready for reflection, goal-setting, and prepping for the upcoming publication cycle.  However, there seem to be a handful of students who need more 1:1 support or editorial guidance as the publication cycle ends.  In facilitating student workflow, I found myself wondering what students could meaningfully do for a day post-production when the entire staff is not ready to move forward as a team.  To support this time of transition, I worked with a few of my section editors to create a post-production tic-tac-toe choice activity board. Quick and simple, it was a hit.

To start the process, the editors determined that they desired more outreach to increase readership, and we had staff members that were ready to move forward with brainstorming for the upcoming publication cycle. Using these identified needs, we developed this tic-tac-toe board for students to self-select areas that could be of benefit to the publication (which freed up my time and that of key editors to support the few reporters needing assistance in crossing the finish line).  

The results of this tic-tac-toe board was pretty great!  Emailed thank yous to those interviewed (including the link to the published article in which they were featured) helped to increase our website traffic.  One of the articles was reposted to Facebook and helped increase views of the article to over a thousand.  Reporters re-posting article links to their own social media accounts also increased readership and gained us at least 10 new followers.  A few students who chose to brainstorm story ideas for the upcoming publication cycle walked away with multiple ideas that ended up coming to fruition the following month.  

As a “treat” for students who completed a tic-tac-toe board, I handed out some stickers I picked up at the fall JEA convention in Boston.  Again, I was reminded of the significant motivational power tiny stickers have over teenagers.  My treat was seeing all staff members meaningfully engaged in this time of transition and working in service to their publication.

Aaron Manfull

Aaron is in his 26th year of advising student media. He is currently the Director of Student Media at Francis Howell North High School in St. Charles, Missouri. He is the Journalism Education Association Digital Media Chair and co-Director of Media Now. He is the 2023 JEA Teacher Inspiration Award Winner and is a former Dow Jones News Fund National Journalism Teacher of the Year. He is one of the authors of the textbook "Student Journalism and Media Literacy." You can find him on X and Instagram @manfull. He's a proud father. A transplanted Iowan. And an avid Hawkeye Fan.

Aaron Manfull has 868 posts and counting. See all posts by Aaron Manfull

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