Monday, March 22, 2010

Social Media for PR Pros Working with Reporters

A friend and local public relations professional sent me a Facebook message asking my opinion on a couple of questions she was considering for a newsletter article she was writing about social media, public relations and working with reporters.

She asked:

1. How have relationships changed between reporters and public relations professionals over the last decade?

2. What tips would you offer to a public relations professional to interact with reporters and build a trusted relationship?

Here's my response:

In this age of social media, public relations professionals have more authority – and responsibility – than ever before. This includes their relationships with news reporters and other media professionals, who they now outnumber.

With smaller newsrooms and tighter deadlines, reporters are even more reliant on public relations professionals to provide quick and accurate details about breaking news events or background information for longer-term stories. Reporters are working at breakneck speed these days to post stories online, so making immediate contact with knowledgeable, responsive PR pros is essential. Where once there existed a more clearly separate reporter-source relationship, today it’s all about collaboration.

Just as journalists are feeling more pressed to deliver, public relations professionals are under increasing pressure to stay “ahead of the story,” whether responding to an incident involving their company or setting the news agenda. And with extensive social media networks and information distribution channels of their own, they no longer have to rely solely on the news media to “get the word out.”

Meanwhile, customers as well as news and information consumers no longer have to depend on the media to find out what’s going on. Here’s where the job of public relations professionals becomes most critical, and must be most transparent. Customers want the facts and they want them now. They are savvy enough to recognize spin. And with their own social media networks, they will punish businesses and public relations professionals who mess with them. Who can afford having a Facebook campaign launched against them?!

With this in mind, here are some tips for public relations professionals looking to build a stronger relationship with the media:
  1. Take full advantage of all the social media tools out there – Facebook, Facebook fan pages, Twitter, blogs, YouTube, Google maps, Flickr, Web sites, podcasts, wikis … and don’t forget old standbys such as e-mail.
  2. Make reporters part of your personal and professional networks: become Facebook friends, invite people to become Facebook “fans” and Twitter followers.
  3. Dedicate time every day to updating and maintaining your social media presence, making your media contacts aware of important business and industry news and articles, along with bloggers, Web sites and other “insider” resources they can use to inform readers.
  4. Don’t neglect old-fashioned face time and telephone calls. Take advantage of informal “meetups” and other opportunities to connect outside of typical business “transactions.”
  5. Be ever proactive, anticipating news and be ready to take immediate action.
What’s changed over the past decade? Building and maintaining a strong relationship with media professionals remains as important as ever. What’s changed primarily are the tools available, and the speed at which you are expected to respond.

A really good resource is the book “Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust” by Chris Brogan and Julian Smith. In addition to Chris Brogan, I’ve listed several other good marketing/public relations blogs in the “New Media” and “Eye on Marketing” sections of this blog (look to the right).


(Photo credit: "News Reporter" by, courtesy of Flickr/Creating Commons)

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