Trail of Breadcrumbs

IStock_000002388817XSmallA new survey conducted by Cision and Don Bates of The George Washington University’s Master’s Degree Program in Strategic Public Relations found that “an overwhelming majority of reporters and editors now depend on social media sources when researching their stories.”

Specifically, “89% said they turn to blogs for story research, 65% to social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and 52% to microblogging services such as Twitter.”

Per the news release: While the results demonstrate the fast growth of social media as a well-used source of information for mainstream journalists, the survey also (noted that) eighty-four percent said Social Media sources were less reliable than traditional media.

The survey also noted that “most journalists turn to public relations professionals for assistance in their primary research … they depend on PR pros for ‘interviews and access to sources and experts’ … ‘answers to questions and targeted information’ … and ‘perspective, information in context, and background information.’”

Let’s take a step back; it’s too easy to come up with a self-serving “See? Told ya so” statement in defense of PR’s role.  Let’s take it up a notch.

The VAST MAJORITY of journalists now turn to Social Media for story ideas.

Part of the PR pro’s new job in this era is to create, seed and cultivate content about clients in the socialstreams.

IStock_000002388817XSmallWe are casting breadcrumbs. Done well, consumers react.  Journalists notice.  They follow the trail of breadcrumbs to PR pros, who can then validate and augment their prospective stories.

It’s not just about pitch, pitch, pitching, 1:1, PR to Journalist, anymore.  The pickup of story concepts at a grassroots level, by consumers, is now part of that process.



Posted on: February 1, 2010 at 7:20 am By Todd Defren
14 Responses to “Trail of Breadcrumbs”

 

Comments
  • Courtney says:

    I think it is very interesting to see how the information in this post as evolved in the last four years. I believe the reliance on social media has become even greater; sites like Twitter and Facebook have become primary sources of news. While it is true that journalists and common folk alike rely even more heavily on sources such as Twitter to gain information, it is as unreliable as ever. Hoax stories, false information, and photoshopped pictures and posts circulate like wildfire on these sites maintaining the importance of validating information with PR pros.

  • Gemma says:

    It is good to see the large amount of Reporters and Editors who revert to social media and public relations professionals for information being revealed.

    Honestly, I do believe that for the longest while, many of the elements and content of news stories are either fueled by information from public relations practitioners or simply stem from information provided from social media sites.

    This is not just speculation. I worked at a newspaper for about three years before branching into public relations, and I know that reporters do turn to social media sites, especially twitter when conducting research.

    Furthermore, story ideas do come from social media sites especially in months when the amount of news stories is severely diminished. And as you said, they do turn to PR pro’s for interviews and access to sources and experts.

    However, public relations practitioners have known this for a long time, and have even queried whether or not some of what is written and printed could be labelled as “churnalism”.

    Furthermore, I believe that this exchange of information and this co-dependence between journalism and PR should run somewhat smoother.

    Everyday PRO’s send press releases to journalists and editors in hopes of them appearing in their publication, and time and time again follow-up phone calls indicate that they have either not been used or simply ignored. Why can’t press releases be better received?

    After all, it has been proven that journalists rely on us, why can’t we rely on them?

  • Gemma Holder says:

    It is good to see Reporters and Editors admitting to using social media and public relations professionals for information.

    Honestly, I believe that for the longest while, many of the elements and content of news stories were either fueled by information from public relations practitioners or simply stemmed from information provided from social media sites.

    This is not just speculation. I worked at a newspaper for about three years before branching into public relations, and I know that reporters do turn to social media sites, especially twitter when conducting research.

    Furthermore, story ideas do come from social media sites, especially in months when the amount of news stories is severely diminished. And as you said, they do turn to PR pro’s for interviews and access to sources and experts.

    However, public relations practitioners have known this for a long time, and have even queried whether or not some of what is written and printed could be labelled as “churnalism”.

    Furthermore, I believe that this exchange of information and this co-dependence between journalism and PR should run somewhat smoother.

    Everyday PRO’s send press releases to journalists and editors in hopes of them appearing in their publication, and time and time again follow-up phone calls indicate that they have either not been used or simply ignored. Why can’t press releases be better received?

    After all, it has been proven that journalists rely on us, why can’t we rely on them?

  • Deighton says:

    This is the first study I’ve seen that actually shows the importance of using social media in PR. Usually it’s just a check list for the corporate heads.

    Maybe this is why press releases aren’t being read as much as we would like. So now we have to influence on a grassroots level so that we can influence media so we can influence the publics?

    I wonder if social media will ever take the place of traditional news media? Will we ever be able to reach our audience without the media?

  • Looks like a study definitely worth reading.

    Your last line, Todd, is one everyone should take home with them: “The pickup of story concepts at a grassroots level, by consumers, is now part of that process.”

    It’s all about being findable — by media, consumers, influencers, etc.

    And, it echos a 2008 study (at TopRankBlog: http://www.toprankblog.com/2009/04/improve-pr-seo-social-media/) at how much journalists use search. If you are active in social media, you definitely will improve your SEO. I used TopRank’s report in a presentation about socializing your PR efforts last fall — guess I should update that presentation.

    -Mike
    (Who’s hoping that the links above aren’t too much pimping. If so, I apologize.)

    • Lee Odden says:

      Thanks for mentioning the TopRank survey Mike. That link is going elsewhere for some reason but it’s the correct URL showing. Try this one to a PPT deck on Slideshare that shows more data on Journalist’s use of search: http://bit.ly/bCitV2

      Todd, I appreciate your comment, “Part of the PR pro’s new job in this era is to create, seed and cultivate content about clients in the socialstreams”. I would add that it’s also important to ensure that content is optimized for easier discovery via search. Now I just need to run an updated survey so we have data. It doesn’t look like the Cision study touched on search, just social media.

  • Karthik says:

    A question on the ‘create content’ part, since it links to another post that seems to be solely about social media news releases. Is that the only form of content advocated?

    Here’s a related post of mine that talks about other forms of content creation, by PR pros, on behalf of clients.
    http://itwofs.com/beastoftraal/2009/08/10/pr-20-be-the-client/

  • Steve Thomas says:

    Thanks Todd for the insight. As always you are ahead of the curve. We work with smaller nonprofits who are quickly discovering the power of social media to gain attention. With regional and local NPOs, the trail of breadcrumbs is even shorter and to totally mangle your great metaphor more powerful.
    Thanks for your thoughtfulness.
    st

  • Dan Greenberg says:

    As a source on Peter Shankman’s Help A Reporter Out (HARO) list, I can attest to the growth of “pull” PR. Many of the requests on the list are general, but I am sure many of the responses come from PR pros with a specific pitch. Social media thus enable the reporters to have access to a much broader set of sources, with much fewer untargeted pitches. The key to the process, though, is that the reporter initiates the request… creates a pull… because s/he has seen the breadcrumbs.

  • maaike says:

    Hi Todd,

    interesting read… I can’t help but feeling a little jealous. A survey we conducted last year among 1,100 Belgian journalists shows anything but an active professional use of social media tools. Only 9% use Twitter professionally, 46% don’t turn to blogs for info on companies they research, 57% never use RSS feed.

    The results are comforting to all those companies still struggling with their social media presence though :-)

  • Todd,

    I like the breadcrum analogy! Tiny digital footprints leading back to the source (our clients). It’s been interesting to watch the progression of trust in the use of social media by reporters. Blogs have been around longer than Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter and almost 9 out of 10 journalists use them for story research. As time goes on, I think we’ll see the Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter numbers go up as well. Twitter in particular is an incredible resource for the journalists who understand it and have a quality network.

    Thanks for the read,

    Bobby McDonald
    @bobbymcdonald



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