Much has been made within public relations circles about using social media to bypass traditional media to reach their target audiences. There’s much to be said for this, as the web provides ways to interact with audiences that just aren’t possible through “earned media placements” within newspapers, magazines, TV news media and radio.
Even for PR professionals focusing on traditional media, however, social media cannot be overlooked. Too many of the journalists they work with are now seeking story ideas, interview sources and supporting facts from blogs, news sites and social media platforms like Twitter and YouTube.
According to a new study conducted by Bulldog Reporter and TEKgroup International, Inc., usage of social media by journalists continues to increase. According to the 2009 Journalist Survey on Media Relations Practices, nearly half of all journalists report visiting a corporate website or newsroom more often than once a week. Some 23% of journalists use RSS feeds to monitor five or more blogs on topics relevant to their news coverage. Also, more than 82% of journalists use social media sites like Facebook and YouTube, up from 75% last year. About 25% of journalists are now using Twitter, using the site once a week or more.
The survey of 2,354 respondents, of which about 46% were editors and 35% were reporters or writers, isn’t entirely surprising. As an active Twitter and Facebook user with ever-broadening circles of “friends” and “followers,” local and national journalists are surfacing with increasing regularity. And some of them are doing a good job being part of a community and using it as a means to obtain story ideas or find sources. Like the rest of America, the numbers will only go up. It’s like years ago, when the question was “should we send that in the mail or should we send it to you via email?” OR, better yet, “Do you have email?” Today, those answers are obvious.
Some West Michigan journalists of note who are tweeting are @Kcorner, @GRgonzo and @jbauer5800 (Chris Knape, John Gonzalez and Julia Bauer of GR Press), @emilyrichett (Emily Richett of Fox 17), @PeterRoss13 (Peter Ross of WZZM 13), and numerous others. Some do a good job of blending personal and professional and keeping promos of the stories they’re about to air to a minimum. I am always amazed at Emily’s online efforts. That girl is always tweeting, facebooking, youtubing, and twitpic’ing. I don’t know how she has time to do her job! OR, is this all part of her job now? Because, if people just *love* Emily Richett because they’re following her online, maybe that’s part of the new deal for journalists. Creating a following beyond the confines of their particular media outlet.
A few weeks ago, several independent PR practitioners, myself included, had lunch at the Press Club with Paul Keep, Editor of the Grand Rapids Press. One of the discussions was the future of newspapers with the rise of online news. Finding the perfect blend of the traditional news media approach leveraged by new media’s reach and capabilities appears to be the solution, but creating a business model for that is going to be tricky. But not impossible. The Wall Street Journal seems to be doing a good job offering creative ad packages for its off- and online editions. And, apparently, it’s leading to a potential tussle with USA Today regarding bragging rights for #1 circulation. WSJ is counting online subscribers in addition to print, while USA Today only declares its print results. Who will win that battle? Better yet, who will win the longer term battle of profitability.
In any case, social media is a great tool to talk directly to your target audiences. It also is an increasingly important tool to reach your target editors. No matter how you slice it, PR professionals have to master the art of social media.