Let’s get something straight, Social Media is not a replacement for media relations.
At least not the way we’re implementing it here at San Diego State. And I doubt, really, anywhere else. I’ve been talking to a lot of groups about how we’re using social media here at SDSU and the one thing that continues to be brought up is a concern that we are somehow leaving behind the “old way” of doing things, or neglecting traditional media.
The media do follow us on Twitter and, in one instance, led one of their stories by quoting one of our Tweets (Twitter has become the modern version of the police scanner).
But Social Media is a tool. It’s a vehicle for sharing news and information that has already been written or produced, whether it be in house or by a third party journalist. I look at it as a more efficient way to make photo copies of clips and mail them to stakeholders. And it can and should be used as a way to communicate with the media – if that’s the best way to reach them.
But Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. will never be a replacement for good, solid, public relations practices, like being timely and newsworthy, understanding deadlines, being responsive, having a good pitch, establishing relationships and knowing how to write.
SDSU’s media relations team takes dozens of calls each week from reporters looking to speak to an expert faculty member about a story they may be working on. We still send out press releases – sometimes we now use video to enhance the story. We still do TV interviews to discuss issues happening on campus. And we still get excited when we have a good story that comes out in print.
Just as many journalists over the last decade decided that they only liked to deal with PR people via email, there will be some journalists, I suspect, who prefer to do all their PR dealings over social networks. But I believe that will be the exception, not the rule.
Of the many ways we use social media at SDSU, media relations is way down on the list. We use it to share news and information about the university, its faculty, staff, students and alumni with our many audiences who may no longer pick up the morning paper or tune in to the evening news. We also engage those stakeholders who are on the social media networks, responding to questions, congratulating them on graduating, and providing them with news and information about the university that we hope will help them be proud of their school, and to be “ambassadors” for us.