News director uses personal social success to drive station’s digital growth

WKRG in Mobile, Alabama has an impressive story to tell on digital.  From 50 percent growth in year-to-year web users to a monumental 325 percent jump in annual video views to landing a regular spot in Nexstar’s top five performers on Facebook, they’ve chalked up quite the online reputation.  And if you know much about News Director Chris Best, these numbers probably won’t surprise you.

On the surface, Best might look like your average news director.  He in the middle of the room running editorial meetings, wearing the typical necktie, and working to balance family life with all the hours spent at work.

On the weekends…yeah, that’s a different story.

On Saturday and Sunday, Best trades the khaki pants for a leather jacket — often taking his Harley out for a ride to free his mind and blow off steam.  When he gets home, it’s all dad, all the time — spending every free moment with his four children.

You might just call him a Biker Dad…

A Biker Dad with 220,000 Facebook fans. 

Like journalism, motorcycle riding is one of his passions.  And Best has been able to successfully combine his hobby and work life to stir a social media following most on-air anchors would love to have.  It started on some community rides in Memphis as curiosty: what would happen if he took video of the events to send back to the station – or even build his own blog?  The result ended up being a smash hit on social media that even took Best by surprise.

Our Digital First Impact Award winner for April 2019: WKRG under the leadership of News Director (and Biker Dad) Chris Best

“What it ended up being was evangelizing for a community that doesn’t get much attention. I just started telling their stories,” said Best.  “The stories aren’t about motorcycles, they’re about people — people trying to make their communities better.”

As his Facebook page grew from about 700 fans in week one to 100,000 in year one, he learned about engagement and what gets people to like, click, and share.  Best saw how going viral helps build a base and generate traffic.  Over time, he started to be able to “feel out” the types of stories that would be successful.

“You kind of get a gut feeling about what’s going to work,” Best recalled.  “That experience definitely helps hone that.”

When he joined the WKRG team a few years ag0, he was able to utilize his personal experience as Biker Dad to drive digital planning during major stories.  When Brittany Harper and Blake Fitzgerald went on a “Bonnie and Clyde” style crime spree through four states, Best helped guide the digital coverage – urging frequency of updates, app alerts, and Facebook Live throughout the process.  The result was a big increase in Facebook followers.

One key Best always keeps in mind: utilize growth and engagement on social platforms to drive traffic to the station’s website.  He focuses social strategy on driving engagement, turning that engagement into web traffic, and building station branding.

“Too many people focus on one item instead of all three.  We’ve always tried to focus on the trio,” he added.

What does that mean?  A large majority of posts have a link back to the website.  Facebook Live videos feature links for more detailed stories. And Best adds that the team is  “relentless” in making sure stories posted have video featured. Let’s be honest, a 325 percent growth in video doesn’t happen overnight!

Even with strategies based on analytics, Best likes to trust his gut instinct and utilize storytelling techniques centered around heart and emotion.

It worked pretty well for a Biker Dad.

And it’s paying off for a news executive helping to craft Nexstar’s Digital First culture.

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