Social media and the internet have changed the way people get their news. According to the Pew Research Center’s recent “State of the News Media” survey, every major news outlet saw their audience stall or decline last year, except for the web. On this blog, in the past few months we have commented on how social media changed the way people experienced the Royal Wedding, the Japan tsunami and the Charlie Sheen meltdown.
It’s clear that we are consuming news differently, but one of the aspects of social media going unnoticed is the way we are reporting it differently. I’m not just talking about how anyone with a blog or video camera can theoretically become a reporter. I’m talking about how experienced journalists are adapting their reporting skills to take advantage of the benefits of social media.
Social media provides a vast, organized set of contacts and sources for reporters to draw from. A recent post on Social Media Examiner told the story of how Anne McNamara, a reporter from WGAE in Portland, used her social media contacts to track down sources on a story about illegal trash dumping.
I saw this change in sourcing take place first hand while working at the student newspaper in college. When Facebook first hit (back when it was just for college students), it instantly changed the way we found sources by allowing us to search for groups with similar interests.
Another reporter in the SM Examiner post, Robert Hernandez, recommended using Foursquare or Facebook Places to locate eyewitnesses at events. Plus, reaching out to sources through these channels often is more comfortable and quick than a traditional phone call or email.
Journalists still play a significant role in deciding the topics of the day, so as PR professionals it’s important to engage them where they are. Here’s a few tips for reaching out to plugged-in reporters:
1. Follow Them: Twitter provides an important means of communication with your media contacts and offers fantastic opportunities to follow what they are working on. However, it must be used appropriately. Be respectful of your contacts and engage them on work and non-work related items. Then, when a great opportunity comes along, you’ve created a solid source that has gotten to know you.
2. Friend Them: Becoming Facebook friends isn’t appropriate for every reporter on your media list, but if you’ve got a great, regular working relationship with someone, go for it. You’ll learn more about them, deepen your relationship and create another avenue for communicating.
3. Provide Access for Them: Plugged-in journalists are looking in the social media space for sources, so make sure your efforts are getting in front of them. Create an excellent Facebook page, tweet quality content, set up a YouTube channel and blog like a pro. Make sure you use appropriate keywords and share, share, share your content across all your channels.