Over the past year, the BBC Business Unit has been experimenting with 'news you can use', a concept which mimics tutorials and informational videos popular with YouTube viewers, in a bid to engage a wider audience on social media and encourage people to take interest in business news and affairs.

Dougal Shaw, video innovation journalist at the BBC, developed CEO Secrets, a weekly video series in which viewers are given business advice from renowned entrepreneurs. Not only has the series been relatively easy to produce, but it is capturing audiences on a variety of platforms including Facebook, the BBC News website and on BBC World News TV.

"I go to places like the Google Campus, and bump into people who are running start-ups. When chatting to them, they say 'you do CEO Secrets? I love that' – it's a really big hit amongst entrepreneurs," he said.

Shaw took advantage of the steady stream of chief executive officers who come to the BBC for interviews on a regular basis, and decided to ask them to simply answer one question: 'What advice do you wish you'd had when you started out?'

Using just his mobile phone, Shaw is able to shoot videos quickly and easily, wherever he can grab the interviewees.

"I turn the camera 45 degrees, so instead of looking to the side, they are looking right down the barrel of the camera.

"The idea is that when you look at this on a mobile phone, because you're thinking mobile-first, it's like a personal pep talk with a CEO looking directly at you."

Although Shaw was initially concerned that having a video of someone in a suit may not be engaging enough for online audiences, this format seems to have resonated with viewers. In fact, his interview with model-turned-entrepreneur Lily Cole gained over 700,000 hits on the BBC News website in the first 48 hours.

Viewers not only keep coming back to the series every week, but they also follow Shaw's links to the rest of the videos, which live on the BBC website.

"The reason it works is because you don't know what they're going to say, it's not the typical thing you hear from a business person, and, crucially, it is 'news you can use'."

"People go to it for that reason, not to learn the latest thing about interest rates or analysis, but to get some real, personal one-on-one advice from very successful people."

Shaw explained that this type of content works well on social media because it gets people talking, stirring up conversations about business ideas and news, and reactions to the advice viewers receive.

"When you put it on social media, you are allowing the audience to leave their reactions and comments.

"You do get this push-back from the audience and criticism through the comments rather than the journalist posing the questions on camera."

The BBC Business Unit wants to take this to Facebook Live, so the interactivity of the video series can be heightened, ideally with the guests answering questions as they come in from the public.

This, of course, comes with its own challenges, as many publishers have recently found out while streaming live on Facebook, but Shaw is willing to experiment and see what works.

"It's all about organising your workflow. You've got time with this individual but there are so many places on social media you can put it."

For a while, CEO Secrets did appear on Snapchat, turning the build-up to each weekly instalment into a game where the viewers had to guess who the interviewee was from a range of staggered clues.

"That was a challenge because you need to record your CEO Secrets which takes five minutes, and Snapchat has to be done completely separately.

CEO Secrets on Snapchat

Of course, when interviewing busy people, if there is no time to record for Snapchat at the end, the Snapchat Story would be incomplete.

"One thing I'm going to do next, if there is time, is record a square cut video on Twitter, tweet it immediately as a sneak preview of one of the bits of advice, and tell people to look out for the full version in a few weeks' time," said Shaw.

"You could load that teaser onto Facebook from your mobile phone, or do a Periscope as well – there are so many things you could do with it."

For more advice on how you can produce 'news you can use' at your news organisation, listen to this week's podcast with Dougal Shaw.

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