A panel of a representative part of your audience or target group, which you can involve in various ways in your journalistic process. You can send them questionnaires, but also have them respond to a story idea or even a published story and ask them what they would like to hear more about. Ask them to give their insights based on their experience or knowledge. Or if need be even have personal contact (but only if they share their contact details, as responses in general should be anonymous).
You have an engaged group of people, who are willing to spend time to respond to your questions. Signing up for this panel gives them a sense of responsibility.
On a regular basis, so the panel knows when to expect contact. This also gives it a sense of importance.
Be aware of
Over-asking your panel. Formulate very specifically what you want from them each time, and not too many things at once. And never forget to show them what you have done with their input and feedback. Make it worth their while.
Newsletter, personalised mail group.
Tips for students
Don’t ‘over question’ your panel, send out requests in a recognizable format with a very precise and clear explanation of what you are asking. And don’t forget to share with your panel what you have done with their input. Reach out on a regular basis (every two weeks on a Friday for example) and stick to your schedule.