Thursday, March 25, 2010
By Dorie Clark
For business leaders, being quoted frequently in the media is money in the bank: it builds credibility and shows that objective, outsider observers value what they have to say.
To become a go-to source, prospective pundits—as in the past—must have good subject matter expertise, the ability to speak in soundbites, and a quick trigger finger when it comes to returning reporters’ calls or emails. But the shifting media landscape has imposed a few new requirements on those who really want to play the game.
First, it’s increasingly essential to follow your targeted reporters on Twitter. Sometimes, the journos will directly post a query, so early birds can jump in and offer their take (Globe tech reporter Hiawatha Bray seeking comment on “Which is best? Comcast cable TV or Verizon FIOS?” is ripe for clever PR folks to mobilize their minions). Even more often, Twitter has the potential to be a solid suck-up tool, allowing readers to comment on reporters’ posts and reassure them that, in this era of declining readership, somebody is actually listening. The smart ones send laudatory direct messages or give public shout-outs, knowing that wired reporters will find them—such as one grateful Globie thanking a reader who praised his e-book as “FABULOUS!” As far as relationship building goes, it sure beats a cold call.
If someone’s comments are good enough, reporters will start listening and reaching out—making Twitter a dramatic egalitarian force. Even five years ago, if someone didn’t have enough political mojo to convince a reporter to have coffee with them in the first place, it was hard to break in. Today, it’s easy to engage with them directly and prove yourself based on the quality of your insights—especially given the ethos of “reciprocal following,” which dictates that it’s good form to follow those who have signed up for your updates. Indeed, one local political reporter recently “followed” me back within five minutes.
Second, today’s wannabe talking heads now have to produce their own stream of content, especially via blogs and Twitter. That’s partially because beleaguered and overworked reporters—instead of taking the five minutes to call up their sources—can now save time by reading someone’s latest post and gauging whether it fits into their narrative. And even more importantly, once you’ve hooked a reporter on your content, you can also begin to shape the narrative. One state senate campaign—in addition to actual voters—recently had Twitter followers including a wire service, two newsweeklies, a magazine, a political columnist, and two local TV affiliates. If you’ve built the right relationships and have the right readers, you’re setting the tenor of coverage with just a few keystrokes.
If a reporter is “following” 1000 people, does he actually read every post? Probably not. Twitter is not a magic wand, bestowing fame and credibility on all its users. But the chance to start a conversation—and a relationship—with the reporters you need has never been better.
Dorie Clark--a marketing strategy consultant for clients such as Google, Yale University, the National Park Service, and political and issue campaigns--is President of Clark Strategic Communications. A former New England Press Association award-winning journalist, she can be reached at www.dorieclark.com and www.twitter.com/dorieclark.