There’s no doubt the growing popularity of social media has had a major impact on news cycles, but how exactly have journalists had to adapt? And what does this mean for PR professionals in their quest for media coverage?

A discussion on this theme was a must-attend for many PRs at this year’s Social Media Week Bristol. Hosted by CIPR South West Chair Rachel Picken, the line-up of speakers – Bristol 24/7 editor Martin Booth, digital content marketer and editor Amy White and Daily Telegraph travel news editor Hugh Morris – offered a rare and valuable insight into how social media has influenced newsrooms today.

And no discussion of today’s media environment would be complete without some healthy debate on the ever-present ‘listicle’ (which everyone agreed that, for better or worse, is here to stay). So it only seems right to share the following as a list …

Top 10 takeaways on how PR professionals can work effectively with digital editors and newsrooms:

  1. Do your research

The fundamentals of media engagement still hold true. Doing your research is just as important as ever – if not more so when engaging with journalists who are under increasing pressure from quicker and tighter news cycles. Look at the media outlet you’re pitching to and make sure your story is relevant, then tell the journalist how they could use it.

  1. Know your story

Similarly, understand your story thoroughly before you approach a journalist. As Hugh pointed out, it’s frustrating when a PR can’t answer questions about their own story straight away.

  1. Build relationships

Fostering a relationship with journalists is as important as ever. So offer to take them out for a coffee once in awhile.

  1. Think engagement vs clicks

Newsrooms are increasingly moving away from chasing clicks to fostering deeper engagement with their audience. So stories that have the potential to be shared and talked about are likely to be looked on favourably. Take, for example, the news of Thomas Cook’s move to allow customers to pre-book their sunbeds – a story that created a lot of noise on social media.

  1. Comments are good – even bad ones

On the subject of engagement, if an online story provokes a host of negative feedback in the comments section, it’s time to remember that old adage about all publicity being good publicity. As Hugh says, “even if the comments are awful, you’ve jolted someone awake enough to comment.” In today’s crowded media sphere, that’s an achievement.

  1. There’s still an appetite for long form journalism

Our attention spans may be shorter than ever, but there’s still a place for well researched, long form content. Take Martin’s example of ‘The White Darkness’, a piece in the New Yorker about Arctic exploration, which he describes as a “fantastic piece of journalism”. Online, the story was brought to life with images, video, audio and maps and is a compelling example of a piece of traditional, in-depth journalism re-packaged for a digital platform.

  1. The press release lives on

There’s still a place for good old fashioned press releases, but today they’re simply a starting point in sharing the key facts and details about a story, so think about what could be included alongside.

  1. Video is king

Which brings us swiftly to the next point. If there’s any way video can be incorporated into your story then get it done and share it with your press release. Multi-media stories have more ‘legs’ as they’re naturally more social media friendly.

  1. Share images – and make sure they’re big enough

On a practical note, journalists get frustrated when they receive small images from PRs. If you’re worried your pictures are too big to share via email, include a Dropbox link instead.

  1. Twitter approaches are OK

Approaching a journalist on Twitter is acceptable if you’re responding to a topic they’ve been discussing there, but should never be used for a ‘cold’ approach.

Anything we may have left out? We’d love to hear of any further tips on engaging with digital editors and newsrooms – tell us in the comments below or tweet us at @Ambitiouspr

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