From a Tweet to the Sacramento Bee

After being in PR for a few years, I was accustomed to making my clients be a part of the story, but not actually being a part of the story myself. On Wednesday as I was driving with my family to Redwood City for Thanksgiving I was reading "Tweets" when I noticed that the Sacramento Bee was seeking to talk to people receiving a subsidy that helps pay for health insurance coverage for the unemployed (see graphic). Since I currently benefit from the subsidy, I figured I would e-mail the writer to see if I could help. I quickly got a phone call back and on Sunday, my story and those of others were featured in an article on the COBRA subsidy expiring for people who signed up when it was first implemented.
After the story was published and remembering when I was contacted through Facebook a few months ago to be part of a story on new home ownership, I began to think about how reporters are now able to reach a much broader audience when seeking people to interview. In the past they could talk with their family, friends and co-workers, hang out in a public space with a sign or hope to get a call from a PR pro who knew of just the right person. Now they have a variety of services available to them. They can reach out in seconds to thousands of people through their personal/outlet Facebook pages, with a Tweet or they can use free services like Peter Shankman's "Help a Reporter Out" (aka HARO).

How does this change life for a reporter? How does this change life for a PR pro? How does this change the way the public interacts with the media? How does this change the way we get our news?

I don't have answers to all of them, but I do see social media as an opportunity for reporters and news outlets to better connect with all of their readers (viewers) and allow the public to become part of the story (besides, who doesn't like to see their name in the newspaper every so often?). It means that PR pros need to have clients at the ready to help reporters when the reporter needs them, not necessarily when the client wants the reporter (although once the relationship is established it might be easier for your client to get in a future story or be the story). For the public it means an opportunity to be part of the story, instead of a silent member of the audience. As for how does it change the way we get our news? I have noticed that in many cases (especially when I am traveling) I get most of my news from the 140 characters the news outlet provides and if a certain story peaks my interest they I can click through and read the rest of the story or research the topic further.

No I don't think that social media will replace a news outlet Web site, at least in the near future, but tools like Twitter and Facebook do give readers the opportunity to read the stories they want to read and be a more active participant in how each story is created and it gives writers a new way to connect with their audience and build them into each story they write. What are your thoughts?

Quick reminder: I am still looking for the right job opportunity, if you know of anything please contact me ...


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