In a blog earlier this week, I wrote that social media can transform how nonprofit organizations operate. One important way is in leveraging traditional or mainstream media (MSM) coverage in support of their brand or to advance their advocacy agendas. This involves taking advantage of the changing media landscape which is characterized by: 1) a growing MSM online presence; 2) changing news cycle; and 3) reporters’ growing reliance on social media channels for story ideas, breaking news, background and fresh voices.
Today, not only is real-time monitoring of social media chatter a must for news organizations, but traditional media organizations have begun using all of the tools in the social media toolkit to maintain market share and relevance. Strategies such as search engine optimization of stories, social amplification, and increased use of shareability-enhancing video, are being used by MSM to leverage social media traffic and influence and push their own online and traditional content.
In response to this changing media environment, nonprofits that in the past monitored traditional media channels and coverage as part of their environmental scanning, are now turning their attention to the monitoring of media chatter on social platforms. They are also using social media platforms to engage in conversations with reporters and news outlets, or push out statements, news releases and background information.
The most popular of these platforms is Twitter.Twitter is ideally suited for the real time nature of the modern news cycle. In fact, the immediacy of Twitter has contributed to changing the news cycle.
Before the rise of social media, radio was the medium that provided the greatest flexibility and ability to cover breaking news. Twitter has now outgrown its role as amplifier of mainstream media news to become a “news breaker”. This has generated huge pressure on MSM outlets to be the first to report–with predictable implications for the quality and depth of reporting.
For organizations looking to use social media to enhance their MSM reach, Twitter can provide an important and direct channel to news rooms but it also means competing for attention on what is becoming a very crowded platform.
Tips on using Twitter for MSM relations
- Use Twitter Search to identify reporters that cover or are interested in your issues and start following them
- Listen. Use Twitter to learn about specific journalists’ interests, needs, styles
- Build a rapport, engage in conversations, be genuine
- Provide background and respond to queries
- Be available for on-the-record comment, including online
- Use Twitter to inform reporters of upcoming media opportunities (press conferences, product launches)
- Post your news releases on Twitter
- Do not use Twitter to pitch stories directly; paticularly if you have no rapport with a reporter
- Don’t neglect personal, face-to-face interaction with reporters
Success in this new environment means being nimble and responsive, and it means understanding the reality of the modern news room: fewer resources and more pressure to break stories. Failure to do so means running the risk of being left behind when your story breaks.
In practical terms, this means nonprofits have to take stock of their internal procedures and streamline decision-making. It means empowering front-line communications staff to engage with reporters, frame the story and provide comment.
In this new environment, organizations–nonprofits, private or public–no longer have all day to ponder the text of a statement, news release, or Tweet. Overly cautious or bureaucratic media relations procedures will fail in the hypercompetitive real-time world in which MSM outlets operate.