By Amy Mehrez
I come for a medium size family of five, and for some reason we managed to be literary scattered around the world. I live in Canada, I have a sister in the US, another in France and my parents live in Egypt. Thanks to social media, we are able to remain connected and practically witnessing all the “local” events together despite of the time difference or the geographical distance.
I can’t write this post today without mentioning the horrific attacks that took place a couple of days ago in two of the most beautiful cities of the world. However, as despicable as they were, and as tempting as it is, I will not tackle this from a political point of view, but rather in a pure PR perspective. I will be talking about two main aspects: Speed of news travel & the power of fast and wide social media coverage.
Speed of news:
As a member of the millennial generation, I get all my news updates from social media. Following major news channels and newspapers allowed me to get a pretty full 360o view of the events as it unfolds. Different channels were operating in different speed and each had its own take on the event. I was impressed on how fast the news traveled on twitter. I managed to share the news with my sister, who actually lives in one of the affected areas, faster than the local media coverage. I was even the one telling her when the president was having a speech even before she saw it on live television!
Adapting to the new realities of news coverage, news outlets are now taking a more direct, straight to the point, approach while maintaining a personified feel to the news. The term “parachuting in the story” is really alive and kicking when it came to the incident that happened a couple of days ago. Through a limited number of characters, news channels managed to bring us all directly inside the situation. When the president came on to do his official media release, he didn’t wait longer than an hour maximum. The key points where highlighted even faster. We don’t have to wait for the official media release to come out, not that there really was an official media release as far as my newsfeed tells me, we are now capable of reading it in 140 characters or less as the event unfolds live in front of us.
The Power of Fast & Wide Social Media Coverage
Now let’s take a step back and analyse the old vs. new way of media release. We have a clear and present example. Again purely from a PR-Social-Media-Power perspective. Just a day before the Paris attack, there was another as horrific and as sad assault that happened in Lebanon. Unfortunately, no one noticed this attack before the vicious one happened in Paris. Part of it is due to the fact that as horrible as it is, it is just the reality of a country torn by war for the last 50 years. But, like I said this is a discussion for another post. If we analysed this from a PR perspective, I would account this to the media coverage the Lebanon event had.
Due to the plain fact that this is pretty much a daily event in Lebanon, there were barely any social media coverage. There was no hashtag (#) created for the event. No shares. No tweets. Nothing. When comparing it to the social media coverage that happened for the attack in Paris, a great number of # were launched: #ParisAttacks, #PrayForParis #UnitewithFrance, among others. It was only after this event and the expolsive reactions on social media, including the Safety Check feature, conveniently launched by Facebook in light of the event as well as the France Flag profile picture filter, that the news about the Lebanon attack started to surface and the #PrayFortheWorld started appearing in our social media feeds.
A lot of people started attacking social media users for not paying attention to what happened in Lebanon, whereas, reality is, people just didn’t know it happened. It is not because of lack of compassion to our fellow Lebanese, or to any human being for the matter, it is because simply there was no social media coverage. There was no # created for the event. There was no Safety Check. There was no flag.
So what do we take out of this?
Facing the new digital reality that we live in, there are some main pointers that I would like to share:
- Social Media comes first: Let’s face it, if you want to makenews public, social media comes first. With the fast paced lives we are leading, people no longer wait to see the news or to check their favorite newspaper, even if it is a cool and updated online interactive website. If you want to be heard, go talk to your target audience where they are. And they are on social media.
- Make your headline short, catchy and to the point: As the event unfolds, the index (or thumb, depending on your device of choice) finger works in a never seen before speed. If you want your news to be read, make sure your headline catches the readers’ eyes before his finger pushes you up the screen.
- Live coverage is the key: Don’t wait for the event to be over in order to deliver a thorough and analysed coverage. Fast and short updates is what people are really looking for.
- Choose the right words: Know what words your target audience is searching for and use them. If you write a great fresh news updates but are using the wrong words, your news will not reach the target audience and it simply won’t be shared. Remember, we are not only writing for humans, we are also writing for computers, check out this great article by David Kamerer, PhD, APR for more information: http://davidkamerer.com/wp-content/upLoads/Creating-the-digital-press-release.pdf
- Hashtags counts: Your news is as good as it is trending, if you want your news to reach the maximum number of people possible, create, or even leverage, a strong and relatable #.
Social media has changed the way we interact with the news. It is the new reality of the digitized world. It is important to keep in mind that all the element discussed in this post, although it is related to a real life tragedy, is very much applicable to any kind of news you want to get out there. Whether it is new brand /product launch or a great contract your company just nailed or even a soccer event for your kids. If you want to get the word out, remember, Social Media First, key words second and trending third.