Social Media – the journalist’s new test bed
Social media is now an established resource used by journalists for news gathering, engaging with readers and as a channel to distribute news. But there is a new use emerging. The media increasingly look to social media to help test a story's worth before running with it.
More and more when pitching a story, we are being asked by reporters if there has been any buzz online. A story being first talked about elsewhere no longer rules it out with the media. In fact it's now often a good thing, reaffirming the story's interest.
This trend has recently been demonstrated by the Guardian. Their new blog 'Inside the Guardian' shares details of a selection of upcoming stories, inviting feedback and ideas. Launched earlier this month (10 October), we will be monitoring to see how this evolves - and naturally suggesting the odd story idea or two.
This same approach is being encouraged across the BBC. Current Head of the BBC's Multi Media Newsroom Peter Horrocks, and newly appointed Director of BBC World Service, was recently quoted in the BBC in-house weekly Ariel, saying "Aggregating and curating content with attribution should become part of a BBC journalist's assignment; and BBC's journalists have to integrate and listen to feedback for a better understanding of how the audience is relating to the BBC brand."
But this approach does not apply to all stories. The privacy of big exclusives is still preserved before publishing, kept well out of the reach of competitors. In practice social media is turned to for stories that hang in the balance. Due to the scarce space within many newspapers and trade publications, this is the realm of many new service and product developments.
This trend has a direct impact on PR planning. When clarifying objectives and honestly assessing the news strength of the story, clarify if, how and when social media can bolster your campaign.
Conduct a social media audit to identify groups and individuals who share an interest in your story. Assessing their needs and behaviour, think about what would prompt them to talk about you. Factor this amplification into your campaign. But remember to keep a little back, so at the point of talking with the press, you still have a reason for them to cover the story now.
The role of social media is expanding. Already a channel to encourage opinion formers to amplify your message to your target audience, it now also adopts the role as an influencer to traditional amplifiers. Be sure to make the most of it.