Monday, June 28, 2010

How to work with the traditional media using the tools of social media?

Next month I will start my new diplomatic appointment - media advisor and spokesperson of the Israeli embassy to France.

It's the second time I will work as a spokesperson for the embassy. 10 years ago I did the same job in Moscow. Looks like the same job? Of course, Moscow is not Paris, Russia is not France, however the journalists are journalists everywhere, and the TV, newspapers and radio have much in common. But there is a big, huge, enormous BUT, that changed the world in the last 10 years. It's called social media.

10 years ago there was no Facebook. No Twitter. No Youtube. Even no DailyMotion or And, of course, no other social networks. Blogs were something marginal, and no part of the mass media, anyway.

Today it's all history. Small correction: a history in making, since what we do today with the social media and how social media interacts with the traditional media are things that we learn by the method of error and trial. It's still new for most of us, and it's all about permanent on-the-job training. I've started to reflect on the implications of this change for press-officers in the dimplomatic missions (spokespeople, porte-paroles) - for us, diplomats in the embassies, who do the everyday interaction with the media.

Here are my thoughts on how to work with the traditional media using the tools of new, social, media.
Important note: all these reflections are based on the assumption that you have your communication strategy goals already set.

1. Open Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Youtube (and yes, purchase video camera if you still don't have one) accounts. Twitter is your channel to talk to everybody, LinkedIn - a channel to talk to the professionals, and Facebook - to talk to your friends. You can and should differentiate your messages on these - or other - networks according to your communication strategy.

For example: on LinkedIn, speak about your embassy economic activities, on Facebook - about your cultural activities, on both - about your country's foreign aid. On Twitter you can talk about everything, and the same goes for Youtube.

2. Social media is not a substitute for personal contact. Keep meeting with journalists, going to eat and drink together, calling them to ask what's new, or to update on things you want them to know. BUT: don't forget to ask them if they tweet or have blog, or Facebook or LinkedIn accounts, and tell them about yours. Get them used to your social media presence, follow them, and make them follow you.

3. When you want to communicate to media your embassy's activities, please don't limit yourself to the old-fashioned practice of sending press-release and asking (or, worse, waiting!) them to publish it. Instead of words, use images. Make video-clip, or attach pictures, or both, that will show what your embassy did or is going to do. Send it to TV, newspapers and radio, but also put it in your social media places.

4. Did you heard the cliche that in the age of social media everybody is a journalist and a movie producer? Well, it's true, and it means also that ... you can do it as well! On the practical level: start presenting your country, your government or embassy in your blog, your Facebook page and so on, in a way you want it to be perceived and known. Of course, you cannot lie or say things that don't exist, but you definitely can and should show the things that are not presented in the media. Remember, that information you give is perceived as less objective since it's official - but for the same reason it's a trusted source of inforation, because governments are perceived to be more accountable than regular users.

5. Engage with the traditional media through social media: Respond to the artcile they write (or broadcast) about your country. If they published something bad and unfair about your country, you don't have to beg them to publish a correction (anyway, you know, they will do it too late, and in the most invisible pat of the newspaper). You just have to put a responce on your social media places and distribute it widely. From here you can understand the importance of expanding your audience.

6. In the age of social media, we can become a news agency. Sometimes the problems with the image of your country begin not at the level of opinion making, but at the very beginning of the news producing process: facts reporting. With the help of the social media you can be the first to report about the event, without distortive and prejudice attitudes of the traditional media. What you need to do is to monitor events in our country and update on them public and media in your mission's hosting country. You have all the chances to report before the news from newsagencies will reach the hosting country. However, to compete with the newsagency you will have to spend more resourses and time, and this brings us back to the issue of communcation strategy goals.

I invite you to tell me what you think about this. Thank you.

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