PR people: Journalists use social media…Do you?

Posted by Cassie Holman, PR Specialist

A follow-up to New North Social Media Breakfast

Last Tuesday I attended my first New North Social Media Breakfast. The event focused around the role that social media plays in today’s news room. Local panelists Erin Davisson and Angenette Levy of WFRV-TV Channel 5, Insight Magazine news editor MaryBeth Matzek and Mark Zahn of Woodward Radio Group discussed how social media is impacting their business and ability to connect with their audiences.

The majority of the discussion centered around Twitter. The panelists agreed that social media has enhanced the 24-hour news cycle. Consumers demand instant access to the latest stories, and journalists can now unveil the unfolding of a story in 140 character updates. Mark Zahn of Woodward Radio said that sending out tweets surrounding local events has been a great supplement to their traditional media outreach.

The discussion at breakfast echoed recent research conducted by Cision and Don Bates, founding director of the George Washington University’s Strategic Public Relations program. Their study found that the majority of reporters now rely on social media sources when researching their stories–89% search blogs for, 65% use social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and 52% tap microblogging services such as Twitter.

The way people take in their news is evolving, and smart journalists are adapting. But the panelists agreed that new media is not killing traditional news. Social media enhances the way news outlets communicate with and engage their audience. As Angenette Levy said, if viewers are interested and engaged in the story, 140 characters won’t be enough. They will click that Twitter link, tune in for nightly news, or visit your Website to learn more.

For PR people, a new slew of social media tools presents a changing dynamic to our media relations efforts. Few journalists prefer generic press release blasts, and they are increasingly finding their news via social media networks. Email, Twitter, blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube and countless other online platforms–the avenues for making connections continues to grow, and our job as communicators is to best navigate these spaces.

We know that we must be using social media, but many people still resist. Social media takes time, but to succeed in the new business world we must be willing to invest. We must realize that it will continue around us whether we choose to embrace it or not. If you truly understand and believe in the value of social media, the less it will feel like work and the more it will become a natural part of day-to-day communications. As MaryBeth Matzek of Insight said, whatever your social media policy is, it can’t be “no social media.”

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