Social Media Makes it Possible to Give Your Press Release a Life Beyond Print.
By Thomas J. Roach
Thanks to social media, your press releases are no longer completely dependent on news editors. It is still valuable to write a release about how you donated sand to the Little League, hired a new quarry manager or worked at the plant 365 days without a lost-time accident. That might get picked up by a newspaper, but now blog sites and Twitter make it possible to give the press release a life beyond print.
Once the release has been written and sent to the traditional media list, it can be posted on the company website, Facebook page or blog. Then a few words about the story can be sent out on Twitter with a link back to the release wherever it is posted.
When composing the Twitter message, it is probably best to use the format of a headline or lead sentence: have a verb and refer to the most interesting part of the story. It is also advantageous to leave enough room at the end of the tweet so people re-tweeting the message to their friends can add their own message.
This is a revolutionary step for public relations, because it means that people who might not read the story in the newspaper or hear it on the radio or television will still have access to it, and the release has a life of its own even if it isn’t picked up by traditional print or broadcast channels.
Of course, newspapers more than any other medium lend credibility to a story. So, if a news release gets picked up by a newspaper, tweeting a link to the story on the newspaper’s website is even more desirable that just tweeting the link to a company site.
Twitter accounts are easy to establish. Once an organization has activated its account, it then needs to build up connections with key publics. This is done by notifying the publics of the new Twitter account by using other media. Employees can be notified through an internal newspaper or an intranet site.
For quarries that have potential issues with encroaching housing, a key public is people living close to the mining operation. They can be notified with an ad in the newspaper, flyers or postcards. A particularly efficient method might be a billboard in or near the target neighborhood.
Another important method for establishing a Twitter network is to search for and connect to members of the targeted public who already have their own Twitter accounts. When people see that someone is monitoring their Twitter posts, they usually reciprocate by monitoring the accounts of the people who are monitoring them.
Not everyone is accessing information through Twitter, but with diverse groups like neighbors and employees, it is likely that at least some percentage will have Twitter accounts. Even though that group might be small at first, they will become secondary channels to get to the other members of the group. People connected to the organization through Twitter can get information that they tweet or email or just talk about with others who are not monitoring company communication.
One common problem with all businesses, particularly quarries, is that people only hear about them when they get into a public conflict over something like zoning or noise pollution. Having Twitter connections into community groups makes it more likely that key publics will have a balanced understanding of an organization that provides jobs, participates in civic events, and donates resources to help the community.
If a company is taking an active, supportive role in the community, and if it already has an apparatus for talking about its contributions by putting out news releases and posting on websites, then Twitter is an important next step.
For the most part, the opportunity presented by social media like Twitter does not change the practice of public relations. One still has to start with a newsworthy story, turn it into a news story, and send it out or post it. Twitter just makes the process more efficient by alerting more people to the message.