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......


  1. I found this post really interesting! I was especially surprised about the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada hosting chat rooms for their stroke survivors! What a great way to keep in touch with their patients while also giving them the support they need from people who have been in their situation as well! That's a great and unique media relations method!

  2. I think it will be both a struggle and an opportunity for the media relations specialist at growing companies. The social media world allows companies to grow with audiences that they haven't been able to reach in the traditional media landscape. I think it is easy for a person to get lost in the social media world with all the citizen journalistic clutter. Big companies like Pepsi and American Express, were smart to jump on the social media hype and do it in an organized and creative fashion. If less well-known companies want to make noise in the online world, they should start out small. I think they should narrow down their target websites and social media networks by researching how many global and U.S. visitors there are on each site. is the perfect tool to find out visitor numbers and statistics for developed websites. Good post!

  3. I definitely found this post interesting. It is important to realize the power media relations now has to really persuade and convince people on their efforts. It no longer relies on waiting to be covered, but rather going out and doing the job themselves. Especially the part of what you said in your blog post that the media and customer have become one. This is key with citizen journalism as customer are updating their statuses and writing comments online of products they are currently using. The Pepsi Refresh project is one the best example of how they have used the online world to really become one with their target audience and reach them in the best way possible. It is for that reason that social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have become such power-houses in the online world.

    Stephany Pena

  4. Today the public has become just as important of an influence as the media. They can possess the power to make or break a company's image. If a business involves themselves with the public by creating chat rooms, blogs and contests it makes them feel apart of the brand. By connecting them to the company there is a good chance they will use Twitter or Facebook to write positive feedback about the brand. That is free, legitimate and successful publicity. I can also understnad why some companies would hesitate to jump on the social media bandwagon but the idea of taking it one project at a time is a good way to see the progress and feedback of the consumers. Lastly, I think the Pepsi Refresh project is such a powerful idea. They are a copany that always advertises during the Superbowl and when they didn't that got people talking. The idea to put money towards a good cause while getting the public to vote for the best idea is very organize and effective plan.

    Krysten Farriella

  5. Using social media opens up many doors for companies to reach new audiences, while also allowing them to reinforce their image to loyal customers. The idea of sitting back and letting the public talk themselves out, or letting an issue "blow over"(because they'll just forget about it after a week), has passed. With social media so available to companies, and the public, an open discussion is the most logical choice. An issue may be forgotten after a week if a company just sits back, but if they reach out to the public they will be remembered favorably.

  6. I find this revolution in the media to be new and exciting. The challenge is learning how to handle the new componets such as social media and integrating them in a way in where they reflect positively in your company.

  7. Social media today is something that cannot be avoided. But I think that it poses a threat to companies, non-profits, or other organizations who don't have experience in the online world. Most companies outsource their website designing and email interfaces, so we as the public can't expect that all places will have social media outlets just because Twitter and Facebook are so popular to us now. Working in an office comprised of many people over the age of 50, I know first hand how difficult it was for them to adapt to using their new email server, let alone when I introduced their new Facebook page at a meeting. I think this is where citizen journalism plays an important role because businesses can use this input from the public to help them cater to those needs rather than focus solely on what happens inside.

  8. The evolution of social media is very exciting and definitely cannot be avoided. I agree with Lisa in that it may pose a threat to companies who are not experienced with Facebook, etc. Our generation is so used to it, we are the Facebook generation, so with that being said, I think the class of 2010 will have this advantage when entering the work world of social media.

  9. Thanks for the shout-out Suzanne (re Heart and Stroke Foundation). We also have a fan page on Facebook for one of our childhood obesity initiatives called Spark Together for Health Kids; where communities of groups or individuals gather collectively to share info on how they can provide better ops for access
    & affordability of basic, healthy food and physical activity for our children.