We have so many ways of directly engaging with our stakeholders now, the need for “free publicity” has diminished a little… but only a little, really.
Purchased – advertising in any medium
Owned – your website, your blog (like this one) or any materials you produce
Earned – what someone else is saying about you
Numerous studies by the Nielsen Company support the concept that third-party earned media remains the single most valuable way to influence a mass audience. In other words, it’s not what you say about yourself or the great ads you might produce – it’s what others are saying about you that counts.
Earned media is now more complex than it used to be because it includes what people are saying about you on social media as well as in the news media.
In our book, “The Modern Approach to Media Relations – Game Plan,” we explain one of the most important things you can do is develop relationships with influencers within the news media today – the reporters, the editors, the news directors and publishers. Bloggers now prominently fit into that grouping.
Here are three ways to help you build those relationships using social media:
1. Connect with news media influencers
This doesn’t just mean following them on Twitter or connecting on LinkedIn, this means interacting with them. Comment on their posts; show them you’re interested in what they’re saying, showing or doing. If you agree with them – tell them. Retweets can be deeply appreciated. Study them. What seems to be their main interest? Are they willing to express opinion? What are their own influences? Use this observation in any story pitches you put together.
Resist the temptation to straighten them out with your facts in an attempt to change their expressed or hinted perspectives. The idea here is just to demonstrate you’re paying attention to them and taking meaning from their posts.
Don’t just connect with the reporters either – connect with their bosses (editors, publishers, news directors…)
2. Share information with them on social media
Don’t be afraid to share your brand’s content with them. If your information or your project is newsworthy or relevant to the reporter your input counts. Highlight a local angle to a national story, offer the blue perspective to a red story, share a personal experience or send them a link to a published study.
They should respond by engaging with you in reciprocation. Although, admittedly, many in the news media are reluctant to do so – this is a symptom of a now outdated philosophy that journalists must remain distanced from those they report on. Good journalists stay outside the crowd to observe it – great journalists weave within the crowd to understand what it’s saying and doing, and even more importantly, why it’s saying and doing that.
Don’t bombard them – obviously you can disengage someone by trying too hard to engage. Use your best judgement and observe their willingness to interact.
3. Provide interesting facts, data and tips
If you find journalists are interacting with you it could be their own reluctance – but it could also be you aren’t interesting or relevant (sorry). Grab a journalist’s attention or give them a unique story angle by pitching newsworthy and interesting statistics. Why not go one step further and make your statistics even more eye-catching and interesting by laying out the key points in an infographic. Visuals and multimedia work particularly well on social media.
Social media is a great tool for engagement but it still hasn’t replaced coffee and hopefully never will. Get to know the influencers in the news media one-to-one and in-person if you can. This will also help you refine how you pitch stories (tailored to their interests) and your social media interaction.