Let me bore you for a few seconds about the days of story-sourcing in my early years within journalism.
Fresh from graduation and flung into the world of a regional newsroom, story-gathering was all about being allocated a ‘patch’, door-knocking, hunting out gossip, a little charm offensive from time to time, and working your way through pages of faxed and posted ‘press releases’ (or cobbled together community stories) from local representatives keen to share a tale or two.
Cut to the newsroom in 2015, and while the average journalist is still only ever as good as their contacts book, nose for a story and tenacity to hunt down the best soundbite, things look considerably different for their newsgathering tactics.
Yes, thanks to social media you can bet a lot of today’s reporters spend a chunk of their time on popular feeds, blogs and online channels to see what’s trending and what’s general sparking interest.
Because, if it’s sparking interest and re-postings online, it’s sure as heck worth a journalist’s time turning that story around for their print publication or their broadcast airtime.
Take a story which made a great deal of airtime on national TV this morning, and which also gathered huge column inches in the broadsheets.
Georgie, Emma and Sophie Ireland have produced their own successful PR campaign through the hugely powerful medium of Facebook.
They weren’t starting a business or launching their own careers through this route – no, instead, they were appealing for a donor for their dad, by dubbing their online appeal ‘Give our Dad a Bone…’.
The plea went global and in response, the charity Anthony Nolan has said that 2,221 people registered as a donor in the week the campaign started – compared with sub 1,000 the week before.
And the Ireland sisters aren’t alone in starting an appeal activity online which then captures the attention of the press.
Think about the likes of the No Make-Up Selfie, the Ice Bucket Challenge and many more besides.
Often these activities start online through social media, and then find their way into the hands of journalists curiously seeking news stories which have gained public traffic and positive momentum.
So when it comes to PR and the trick of how to get a journalist’s attention, the argument no longer stands that the press release is the first or indeed only port of call.
Just as press and broadcast outlets use social media to ‘re-tell’ a story to the masses, they also use it to gather potential stories and find what’s making people talk.
Here’s a few tips for making a PR angle work in conjunction with both social and traditional media:
Use what network you have:
Whether you want to push a story out to a friendship group or a group of clients and customers, the same argument applies – it’s always easier to start with the contacts and allies you have already.
Social media allows you to reach those who are already engaged with you.
If you’re friends with a blogger or a journalist, use that route too.
Make sure the journalist knows of your viral activity:
Journalists won’t be put off by the fact you’re running a campaign online, in fact they will like that they can track what following you’re getting, and that they can potentially interact with some of the responding audience.
Be cautious with the data and detail you don’t own:
On social media, in can be a little too easy to start sharing information about people within your network who may not wish to be at the centre of a national press phenomenon in the way you’d like your campaign to be.
Do be open with your audience about your intentions and if you’re specifically identifying key personalities within your PR effort, make absolutely sure they’re on board.
Use spikes in success for regular journalistic conversation:
If your social media campaign performs well, use this as an opportunity to share the triumph and update with the journalist you’re contacting. Journalists like to see the progress of a story they’ve worked on, and to be acknowledged for the part they play. Keep them informed and you’re likely to have a long-term rather than one-hit contact for your future activity.
**I’m currently seeking new consultancy projects in the world of PR, communications, strategy and marketing, so feel free to drop me a line if I can be of assistance. firstname.lastname@example.org