How to mix social media and traditional media

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Social media and traditional media need to be a part of any business’ communications strategy. They work hand in hand and can complement each other.

Let’s look at how communication professionals used to work with traditional media and in some cases still do.

1) Organization has an idea for a newsworthy event.

2) A news release is drafted. It’s about a page or so long.

3) The news release is reviewed and edited by several people. Some change language to what they think is the newsworthy angle.

4) After the final edits have been approved, the release is emailed to 28 news agencies.

5) None of the news outlets covers the “newsworthy” item.

6) That’s the end of publicizing the item.

People ask me today in 2013: Why wasn’t this covered?

I usually ask: “Why didn’t you publish it at least on your website or your social media accounts?”

Usually the answer revolves around the organization’s website is hard to update. And how do you fit a news release in a tweet?

In my opinion, the answers are:

1) Use WordPress as your content management system. It’s very easy to update.

2) A news release often can easily be cut up into individual tweets that work on their own. If you really have to share the entire news release, put it on your website and then link to it from social media.

Think social media only reaches small audiences? That could be true especially when you first get started, but news releases used to be written for small audiences, too.

Back to traditional media…

Newspapers and TV stations, in general, try to cover news stories that editors, news directors, etc., feel appeal to the widest possible audience.

How is that decided?

Typically, each morning, decision-makers review what stories have been submitted, are on the radar for one reason or another or a reporter has dug up.

A news release, as you might imagine, is often easily outranked by a unique and exclusive story a reporter has found.

That doesn’t mean that news releases can’t lead to stories, but they often don’t lead to the big story that public relation pros were hoping for.

A CNN exec speaking at the American Marketing Association’s Nonprofit Conference went as far as saying that no stories come off news releases.

Stories happen through relationships with reporters. I was a reporter for a number of years, and none of the stories that I remember a decade later as memorable came off news releases. They came from relationships.

How does social media fit in here? It used to be that reporters built relationships with the person working their particular topical beat. That’s still true today, of course. But you can also use social media to build relationships.

For more on how to build your social media strategy, please go here.
Twitter especially is often used by news reporters. Follow them. Tweet at them when it’s relevant.

I’ve tweeted at a local station before about a new project. The result: We launched the project on live TV.

“This tweet is your official news release. We won’t be faxing a copy.”

Don’t get me wrong. News releases (mass notification) of news media have their place. Especially for police, fire and other agencies that try to release emergency information quickly.

But even that’s changing. For example, during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, Boston PD tweeted news about an arrest within minutes of the arrest.

There’s a place for all the channels. I would suggest that you distribute your content on all the relevant and especially easily accessible channels.

It’s not social media versus traditional media. Everything is a mix of communicating with different segments of the public.

Which one is more important? That depends on your business. If you are a business with a small but engaged social media following, social media might be. Depending on the coverage you receive, traditional media might be effective.

This was first written for the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance in late 2013 to help small businesses with marketing.