The Winston-Salem station hosted a community conversation on the topic that listeners said they wanted to discuss.


WFDD listeners drove a community conversation on mental health

With community engagement central to its mission, WFDD-TV, the public radio station in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, asked listeners what they wanted for the topic of a live, community conversation in May 2017.

Using the platform Hearken, used by news organizations to engage consumers on stories from start to finish, the Wake Forest University-owned station selected mental health from the 50 or so topics suggested. Then WFDD used the same tactics to shape the conversation itself, soliciting listeners for specific questions on the subject.

The result: a robust community conversation fueled by scores of attendees looking for insight and information on the subject. Participants, seated around tables, engaged in three rounds of 12-minute discussions, each focused on a different topic: improving access to mental healthcare, addressing the stigma surrounding mental health and long-term care for those who have mental health issues.

Attendees changed tables after each round. When all three rounds were over, participants shared their learnings with the entire group. The format was based on the World Café methodology.

While the event was primarily focused on providing listeners the information and insights they were looking for, it also provided WFDD with the opportunity to better serve the community by expanding mental health coverage. A feature report and related coverage ensued.

“Listener engagement is an important part of our strategy, but it’s more than that — it is essential to everything we do every day.” said WFDD assistant general manager Molly Davis. “We are always looking for new and innovative ways to connect with our listeners, and we also want be sure that our news coverage is tackling the topics that matter most to our community.

“Using the Hearken module to allow our listeners to select the topic for our Community Conversation on Mental Health accomplished both those things, ensuring that the topic chosen was one of great importance to people in our community and engaging our listeners in a new way. It helped them feel truly a part of the event, more than just an attendee,” she said.