Friday, February 5, 2010

Part 2 Media Relations is Re-Inventing Itself in a Social Media World

Despite citizen journalism running rampant and tradtional forms of media dwindling, the media relations specialist is still performing a much needed function. In fact, media relations has become more important than ever because the media and customer have, in some cases, become one. Since the public is actively participating, voicing opinions everywhere, it is now essential to engage both the media and the public directly to ensure that the messages they convey are in keeping with the vision that companies want to convey about themselves. In addition, creating an online presence makes it easier to pitch stories to traditional media who are now armed with more information than ever before. The hard part for some companies is how to interact in a natural organic way in keeping with an online style of conversation. For many companies changing the way they do media relations to include social media has been an evolving process.

Here are some ways that media relations efforts are changing.

Many companies and nonprofits are starting with single projects. Some are creating chat rooms and project specific websites, contests and blogs. Once they see how powerful these one time online projects are they begin to see the power of increasing their online presence. For example, The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada began to notice that stroke surviviors were beginning to reach out to each other online on their own. Determined to not only be in on the conversation but to be the catalyst for dialogue, they began a chat room to host these conversations, facilitating people with information, experts and contacts. Aside from hearing and monitoring what the public was saying, it also provided them with an oppotunity to express their perspective on the issues being raised.

Creating stories that are specifically designed for online media is another way that companies are changing the way they conduct media relations. Just like media relations pitches change based on the needs of radio, print or television, the same holds true for social media. If the story would be better served as a viral story then embracing the online media community is essential. For American Express it was clear that the online world was a critical audience to reach regarding their sponsorship of Fashion Week. The key to engaging the online world was to get an influential blog like The Daily excited about the story. Knowing who these influencers are is vital and is now made easy with websites like Technorati and others that help you determine the most sought after blogs. Since digital media likes to cover stories that refect what they are all about, developing story ideas that are happening online is a another great way to reach online media. Companies are now developing specially designed programs for this community. For example, American Express Member's Project, the first program designed to allow customers to vote online for how they wanted American Express to spend their philanthropic dollars was a big feature for blogs like The Huffinton Post and The Consumerist. Pepsi is currently doing a similar project with their Pepsi Refresh program.

Perhpas the biggest change to media relations is that today media relations specialists must be content creators as well. No longer do media relations people have to just wait and hope that the media will want to cover their stories. Now, while their working developing stories with traditional media they are simultanouesly creating their own content for distribution on websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube channels. Sun Microsytems hosts a regular radio show on BlogTalkRadio where they promote products and talk about new innovations. Similarly, Walmart has a blog where they connect with other bloggers and share tips for the cost conscious.

Stay tuned for more social media ideas from creative companies......