While old media embracing social networks and user input is nothing new (e.g. The New York Times and CNN), WXYZ-TV, Detroit's ABC affiliate, has been embracing social networks in an innovative local experiment.
Stephen Clark, a news anchor at the channel, has embarked on an evolving program using twitter to build and tap his audience. He originally started with just getting feedback and encouraging viewers to create a social network community and now gets community involved in actually vetting and creating what appears on newscasts. Blogger Becky Johns provides a good summary of this initiative and the possible implications for the broader media. One thing she mentions with real relevance for the PR and communications industry: you can't simply PITCH this community. It will be interesting to see if and how marketers can find a way to infiltrate this kind of forum and in a natural, organic (free trade?) way become part of this kind of group, sell some COMPELLING stories/content, and not irritate the genuine, involved audience members.
Johns notes that if this kind of experiment takes off, it could have an impact on how PR folks do their jobs:
While this is surely no magic bullet to save the fortunes of traditional media, it is certain that initiatives like this make it more relevant. If the world is interacting and learning in a certain way, you either need to lead, follow or get out of the way. PR firms can play their part by learning to play by the new rules: getting in and listening and not trying to dominate the conversation.
- Pitches will require compelling visual content. A press release just won’t be enough. PR staffs will need to expand storytelling abilities from just words to other creative means.
- PR pros will have to represent their company or client AND the community at large. The good ones will be active backchannel participants. They’ll have no know what’s happening locally, in their specific industry and the reporter’s beat and coverage history. Not two out of three. All of it.
Thanks for reading.