By Michelle Rash
There is a growing body of evidence that reporters are not only turning to social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for recreation, but also for sourcing and research. For example, one survey found that nearly 45 percent of reporters read a corporate blog when conducting research on a specific company and that a quarter of all journalists visit a company’s Facebook page to gather information.
This ultimately raises the question – are companies doing enough on social media to generate the positive press coverage they want? While many companies are still shy about tapping into the power of social media to engage with reporters, one of our clients has recognized the value it can hold.
A Case Study
More than a year ago, RLF began managing a Twitter account for one of our clients targeted specifically at the media covering that industry.
Since taking over the account, it has grown from roughly 500 followers to more than 1,300 followers, including reporters at some of the nation’s largest newspapers, industry bloggers and government regulators. Through this account, RLF has been able to reach out to followers to promote research and press releases issued by our client, share the company’s point of view on important industry issues, and have conversations and engage with key reporters.
This interaction has led to some positive media coverage. In the most notable example, after seeing a tweet by the Associated Press promoting upcoming coverage on a variety of topics related to this client’s industry, RLF responded via tweet asking if sources were still needed for the stories. Less than 48 hours later, a spokesperson for our client was being interviewed by an AP writer for a story that earned national coverage.
While not every company needs to create a unique Twitter account for the media, companies should remember that Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites can be powerful tools for media outreach. Many news organizations and journalists have their own Facebook and Twitter accounts (this study found that four out of five business journalists use Twitter daily). Find which ones matter to your business and your industry, and connect with them through these channels. Praise a story, provide feedback on a topic they are covering, or find other ways to engage to help boost their awareness and increase your credibility.
On the flip side, as a growing number of reporters are using social media for work purposes, it’s important for companies and their spokespeople to understand that news is now more instantaneous than ever. I have seen reporters live tweet from events and press conferences, and tease out the details of interviews as soon as the discussion is complete. Things that were once considered too minor or irrelevant for a print or broadcast story may now get mentioned in a blog or on a Twitter feed. This makes it even more important for those being interviewed to be aware that once something has been said or done, it cannot be taken back. This should not dissuade you from interviews, but just as social media creates more opportunity for positive exposure, there is more opportunity for error.
Our experience with Twitter has found the benefits of social media, whether for customer engagement or media outreach, far outweigh any risks. As media keeps evolving, successful businesses must partner with companies such as ours to make sure both the message, and the medium in which it is delivered, are correct.
By Michelle Rash