Beyond PR

Feb 04, 2016

The Rules of (Social Media) Engagement When Working with Broadcast Journalists

Broadcast News and Social Media Impact on PR

Live streaming video technology presents an exciting — but often overlooked — earned media opportunity for public relations and communications specialists.

The next time you pitch broadcast media, think beyond traditional on-air coverage.

In addition to using social media to gather information and interact with viewers, many television newsrooms across the country are turning to social to broadcast stories – even when the station is not on the air.

“It gives public relations clients more opportunities to get in front of multiple audiences,” says Michelle Li (@MichelleLiTV), award-winning evening news anchor at WISC-TV, the CBS-affiliate in Madison, Wisconsin. “Get your folks in front of a screen. Always push your clients to do webcam-type interviews.”

Phone interviews, she says, make for “bad television.”

Li, whose following on social media accounts includes more than 670,000 subscribers on Google Plus, recently participated in a Twitter chat focused on how broadcasters use social media. During this #ConnectChat, she also offered tips to public relations professionals interested in engaging with television news personalities. 

“You have to make an effort every day,” says Li of her involvement on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, Periscope, YouTube—the list seems endless. “There are great tools to keep you active.”

[Don’t miss the next #ConnectChat: PR Newswire’s @ProfNet hosts a Twitter Q&A every other Tuesday between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. ET.] 

In a video Li shared with #ConnectChat participants, viewers get an inside look at how newsrooms like WISC-TV use social media to enhance their work.

Following an outbreak of severe storms that spawned tornadoes, the station used social media to take its audience behind the scenes, live streaming as crews collected footage and interviews between newscasts. When riots broke out in Ferguson, the station identified and spoke with a local connection through live streaming video, which editors later downloaded for broadcast.

Not only does live streaming on social media offer more to viewers, it also streamlines newsroom operations by allowing web producers to listen in to events they can’t attend in person and update copy for digital platforms.

For public relations professionals looking to work with broadcast media, social media has essentially created transparency — offering a once-rare glimpse into television journalists’ world.

Now, it seems there’s no excuse not to know what a reporter is covering and what they’re interested in at any given moment.

“Be able to truly interact. Be involved in a journey of discovery. Be genuine,” Li advises.

Pitches, she says, must have relevance to the current news cycle and a sense of urgency. If you have pre-packaged video, offer it—but recognize that newsrooms prefer to shoot their own footage and are inclined to pull sources from a sister station or network feed if local crews cannot make it to a scene.

Generally, stations shy away from airing canned content unless the clip includes something so visually appealing that it’s hard to ignore.

“In my opinion, journalists love pitches, but understanding good story ideas and what makes news is most important. We get a lot of softball pitches from PR folks. If you’re known for that, we start ignoring your emails. But, if we can find something harder, we can go to our news folks with a potential lead. That will almost always be hard to refuse.”

Of course, pitching isn’t the only PR practice that’s been given a makeover by social media. Download our guide Tips for Creating a Press Release That Maximizes Social Sharing to ensure all of the content you distribute is social media friendly.

Author Wes Benter is a senior online community services specialist at ProfNet, a service that connects journalists with expert sources. He previously worked as a creative producer for PR Newswire’s MultiVu. Prior to that, Wes worked on-air as a reporter and weather anchor for network affiliates in the Midwest. Learn more by following him on Twitter @WBenter.

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