The other day I was asked for some help in setting up a news conference in another country, which meant that the costs in getting me there to do the work simply weren’t worth it.
But I was able to provide a fair bit of free information over the telephone and I referred the person to an article I published some time ago about how to set up a news conference and another one on how to write and distribute a news release.
But when I was asked whether the group that wanted to hold the news conference should have a web page I realized that events in social media have passed a lot of people by.
If you have a cause and you want publicity then you absolutely must have:
- A web page
- A Twitter presence
- Any other social networking mechanism that appeals
The days of calling up a few reporters, handing out some news conference notices, and perhaps sticking up a poster are gone, long gone.
The news media, (I am referring to the long established newspaper, radio and television, news outlets,) have been forced into playing close attention to what is happening on-line. For, if they don’t pay attention then a lot of astute, aggressive, and highly professional web journalists with far reaching blogs and Twitter audiences will beat them into the ground on breaking stories.
This is terrific news for anyone who wants a podium to get their news and views out to huge audiences, but they first have to build their communication strategies around the internet.
As I was discussing the basic of this with the person on the phone I tried to outline the sort of things his group needed to be doing.
There are three ways of using social media for your message:
- Take the time to learn it yourself
- Find a local 17 year old kid and have them do it
- Hire a professional to do it
The last one, hiring me, is very very expensive.
The first one is time consuming, will be frustrating and baffling, but will pay huge dividends in creative approaches and spin-on-a-pin agility.
The middle choice, finding a switched on teenager is not a bad choice at all.
Whereas I had to learn social media, often on my clients’ dime, the so-called young have grown up with it all and swim through the various social media outlets like seals after salmon.
If you just can’t get your head around the need to get your cause and concerns front and center on Facebook, MySpace, or whatever, then ask around your friends and colleagues and without a doubt you will find a kid who can’t hold an intelligent conversation with an adult, but who can perform Harry Potter magic in getting your message out.
There are some basic elements in pushing your message through social media.
- You need the websites, Twitter accounts etc
- You need to be blogging, tweeting, and other posts every day
- You need to be reaching out to anyone who is interested in what you have to say
- You will still need Ninja level skills to deal with the traditional media
You probably won’t have much of an audience in the beginning, probably just the few people you already know, but social networking does result in huge progress if done on a regular basis.
One thing I recommended to my caller was to spend half an hour on the web finding out who the big bloggers in his city are. Every city has some power hitters with large audiences that rival and even exceed columnists in the large city newspapers.
Comment on their posts, respectfully and carefully draw their attention to your social media efforts and the message you are promoting. All it takes is for one credible blogger with a huge audience to mention your cause in passing and you will gain an audience.
You will also gain credibility.
It used to be, and not that long ago either, that journalists worked with a phone book and a personal collection of contact numbers. If they got a call from someone like you who they’ve never heard of inviting them to a news conference about something they had never heard of, then the chances of the reporter deciding to attend would be nil. Your only hope in those days was if the reporter called one of their contacts and your message or cause was known to the contact. Third party validation is a powerful and potent thing.
These days journalists have utterly abandoned the phone book and while they might still have good contact lists they are more likely, almost certainly, going to look your group up in Google or Bing. If you are not there then you don’t exist.
If you are there and your message is clear, your personal comments and writings on various blogs are reasonable and temperate, then Bob’s Your Uncle.
Social media and social networks are so important, so absolutely vital to just about anybody doing business or trying to promote a cause, that I now build all my Communications Strategies around it and embed its principles in the Crisis Communications Plans I do for clients.
It may seem that the internet has swept away the news business in a welter of chaotic and cacophonous electronic babble but I see things differently. This is the golden age of communication and the opportunities for the ordinary person, the small business, the marginalized social group, to get significant and meaningful media attention have never been better.
On a side note — I first learned the astonishing power of social networking after I applied some of its principles to a communications strategy I developed in Afghanistan to disarm the private armies of the country’s warlords. My breakthrough came after I stumbled across the seminal work of J A Barnes in his 1954 paper "Class and Committees in a Norwegian Island Parish". Armed with just the very basics I was able to make some key breakthroughs in Afghan attitudes to warlords and private armies."