Yesterday, I attended the Western New York College Media Convention at The College at Brockport, an event that I had a hand in planning and promoting, and that I had looked forward to for a long time. With the theme of “Merging Media,” there were speakers and sessions throughout the day focusing on different types of Communications professions, including radio & television broadcast, journalism and Public Relations.
Although the sessions and presenters were very diverse, I began to discover an emerging, over-riding message throughout the day: To be successful, be authentic in your interactions and use some common sense.
Jane Sutter, Editor for Community Partnerships and Niche Content at the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, gave the Keynote Address for the convention. She spoke about how to use social media to promote yourself as well as your organization.
One of Sutter’s main points was that social media is not a fad, and it is only going to grow in years to come. Most reporters and employees at the D&C use social media on a daily basis as part of their jobs. Facebook and Twitter, as evidenced by the D&C, have huge potential to drive traffic to blogs and websites. She also said that Twitter can be a great way to start real relationships with people through the use of Tweet-ups, which are off-line meetings between people who formerly knew each other through Twitter.
Furthermore, she said that she is completely open to being contacted and pitched to through Twitter as opposed to old-fashioned email. That could be a huge shift in the way that Public Relations practitioners reach the reporters that write their stories. But, just like when pitching an idea to a reporter through mail or email, it takes time, effort, research and authenticity to make a connection with the reporter. Even if you use Twitter, it’s still important to know the background of the reporter you are trying to reach, and why your story would be something they are interested in.
Mike McDougall, currently a Managing Partner at McDougall Travers Collins, also touched on this in his session titled, “Public Relations Horror Stories.” The third way to fail in Public Relations presented was by using the “spray and pray” method. In other words, blindly sending pitches to as many email addresses as you can find is not always the best option.
It would seem obvious to me that the best way to get your organization’s story in the news is by, like I mentioned earlier, understanding the needs of the organization you are pitching to. Being selfish and hoping that your story will get picked up for the wrong reasons isn’t going to work. You would be surprised at how often people in the profession don’t understand this. If you don’t believe me, check out some bad pitches at www.Badpitch.Blogspot.com.
At the Social Media Roundtable, Carol Fingar, Creative Director at Break the Ice Media, Bethany Young, Reporter at the Messenger Post Media and Shiera Coleman, Communications Producer at the City of Rochester’s Mayor’s Office gave their opinions on how to best use social media as an individual and as a representative of an organization.
Some topics covered were how to avoid misreporting something on social media sites, whether or not people that manage social media sites ever have time off from work and what types of content get the most feedback.
At the end of the day, students from Western New York colleges walked away from the event after learning a lot about an array of Communications professions. The event also served to connect students from different schools with similar interests, and a lot of new relationships were formed.
The event is bi-annual, so put this one on your calendars for 2014!