The press release still isn’t dead (part two)

As promised, here’s part two of what a panel of speakers I put together for this year’s Kentucky CASE (Council for the Advancement and Support of Education) conference had to say about the value of the press release and how social media fits into their story-creating processes.

The panel was comprised of four speakers purposely chosen from a broad spectrum of traditional media outlets: an NPR radio news director, a monthly print magazine editor and publisher, a TV news anchor, and a pop culture reporter for a major daily newspaper. This blog entry looks at the magazine editor and TV news anchor’s thoughts; click here for what the radio news director and the daily newspaper writer had to say.

More important perhaps than if the press release is dead or not was the need for each journalist to discuss how she or he uses social and new media to find, create and distribute news stories. How do we combine these press releases we spend so much time writing with the social media we’re all on in order to more effectively get our messages out to our audiences?

Monthly magazines don’t care about news, but they do like social media

Steve Vest is the founder, editor and publisher of Kentucky Monthly magazine. The reason I recruited Steve for this panel is because I’ve interacted with his magazine’s presence on Facebook numerous times, and I wanted to hear more about their venture into social media.

For example, earlier this year, KM on Facebook asked its fans for some “retail therapy” recommendations. I commented on the status update with a recommendation for a little boutique in my town. And wouldn’t you know: in its March 2010 issue, my comment appeared with others under a “What you said…” feature. Very cool, especially since I was doing some publicity for the boutique at the time!

Steve gets about 400 e-mails a day. There’s no way he can get through them all, he says. No joke. Most of us can’t get through ours, and I personally don’t get close to 400 a day.

“If someone wants to contact me, they can do it on Facebook,” Steve tells us. He says he’ll accept just about anyone’s friendship request if he can pinpoint why they asked to be his friend.

In relation to the magazine, Steve says that querying fans on its Facebook page is a great place to get background information for print stories, just as my above “retail therapy” story illustrates.

Then Steve tells us he doesn’t care about news. We all pause for a split second to contemplate this before our little “aha!” lights come back on. Of course he doesn’t: monthly magazines don’t exist to break news. They’re there to inform and entertain in a luxury-item sort of way. Steve represents the chillbilly publication on the panel.

And Facebook lends itself to being an ideal place to post queries for potential magazine article sources, he explains. Then again, Facebook also lends itself to stories with quick turnarounds, as the Courier-Journal pop culture reporter explains in the first blog post. Point: Facebook is pretty great for queries with almost any deadline. And for media relations folks, too: In my job, I’ve used Facebook several times to get sources for web and alumni magazine stories.

TV stations should be in Facebook frenzies

Finally, we have Amber Philpott, evening and night co-anchor at CBS affiliate WKYT. Amber says her station is in a “Facebook frenzy.” It wasn’t something she had to consider professionally until about four years ago when social media began taking off. Now, her station’s presence on social and new media outlets allows them to break news in places other than a newsroom desk.

“You might hear breaking news on Twitter or Facebook before it even comes out of my mouth,” Amber tells us. “It could be 20 minutes before something posted online is put on TV.”

The demand for our news to be everywhere has, of course, not just changed how we receive the information but—more importantly—the day-to-day job of the TV journalist.

“We’re field TV journalists, and then we come back to the station and become print journalists, too,” she says. And photographers, videographers, and social media experts. WKYT’s web presence is no longer simply a web site: it’s a web channel that contains print versions of the TV stories (that may include additional information the TV version didn’t have), links to supplemental and interactive items on Facebook and Twitter, and live streaming of broadcasts. In fact, WKYT has a web-only 4 p.m. newscast. This was news to me and information I found to be very exciting.

And this all takes a lot of time. “It’s sometimes overwhelming,” Amber says.

Each journalist puts her own stories online each day. And it’s crucial that you do it, Amber says, because folks are going to be looking for them immediately after they air. The station also has a “social media task force” that works to cross promote web channel, Twitter and Facebook content to maximize exposure.

Amber is still a lover of the press release, and especially from colleges and universities, who have a very important resource for TV news stations: experts that can comment on and localize national trend and event stories.

Lastly: what’s possibly the best way WKYT uses Facebook and Twitter and where media relations professionals can work in some more sources? The classic MOS interviews: (wo)man on the street.

“Social media is a Godsend for MOSs!” Amber tells us.

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