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July 9, 2009
Traditional and Social Media: The Same, yet Very Different
 
There are a lot of tactics that fall under the public relations umbrella, but media relations more often than not first comes to mind when you talk PR. Similarly, when you talk social media marketing, blogs are one of the first things that come to mind -- though social media marketing is so very much more.
 
A lot of focus during my nearly 15 years in PR has been in media relations. Similarly, a lot of the focus of my social media marketing experience during the past four years has been in blogger relations.
 
While media relations and blogger relations are similar, there are nuances in each approach to make them different enough. Let’s compare and contrast the main components of each – and, hopefully, help ensure your next outreach is successful.
 
Developing your targeted media
 
Ideally, you should regularly be reading and listening or watching the media you regularly pitch. You need to be familiar with their audience, what they use, how they like to be contacted, etc. However, for a new client or new market, there are times when you’re starting from scratch. In both activities, you want media read by your audience and with good “reach” (circulation, viewership, traffic).
 
Media relations: Use a service like Cision, Contacts on Tap or a similar paid service to develop your media list. To supplement those services or if you can’t afford them now, ask sales people what media customers and prospects read, watch, listen to. And, as always, Google is your friend. Search for your subject and see what media outlets cover it.
 
While selecting your media outlets, find out who covers what beat, and how he or she wants to receive news – call him or her if you can to inquire. It’ll show your interest in being a real resource and get your materials more top-of-mind when you send them.
 
Blogger relations: Use a paid service like Techrigy (which I use), Radian6 or Scout Labs, or one of other many free ones. These include Google Blog Search, Social Mention and even Technorati. Use any of these tools to search for your subject or brand to determine who already is blogging about it. Also, as you find blogs that look like good targets, check their blogrolls for other strong potentials. Factors to consider when choosing your blog list include if the blog covers your topic, is open to pitches, traffic stats, if it’s posts seem to get a good number of comments, and inbound links.
 
As you find these blogs, be sure to also get to know the blogger or bloggers behind them. Find out if he or she uses PR materials at all.
 
Know your targeted media & determine right contact
 
Once you’ve selected your media, now what? Whether online or offline, you need to read, research and be familiar with your targeted outlets.
 
Media relations: Use tools like Cision to get profiles on the media and review their editorial calendars. Also, get and read past issues, read, review and search the media outlets’ Websites to become familiar with it and find out who specifically you need to reach.
 
Blogger relations: Read the blog for a least a couple weeks – more if you can. If you don’t have time, search the blog for posts related to your subject. There are no quality, comprehensive directories of blogs like there are for traditional media. You just have to read and study them. DO NOT SKIM ON THIS PART. More so than traditional media, successful suggesting of your subject to blogs relies on how much you know them. As you learn about the blog, you’ll learn about the blogger, if he or she uses PR materials, how best to contact him or her, and how you can connect your subject to the bloggers and their audiences.
 
Pitching
 
No matter the type, the pitch needs to be short and clearly show some connection between the media outlet and your subject. If there is not a connection you can establish – DO NOT USE that particular media outlet. If you do so, you’ll start ruining that relationship before it even starts. Also, do no overpromise or assume your subject is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Be humble. Real media relation pros know they are only suggesting topics – not “placing” them.
 
Media relations: In traditional media relations, media tend to be much more comfortable dealing with PR pros than bloggers (though that gap is narrowing as more bloggers are pitched). With traditional media, you are more a provider of information than offering information. Make sure you have enough information that reporters can use for a good story: content, images, graphics and graphs if necessary, etc. Depending on your relationship with the reporters, include these items in the email, give them a link to where they can access it, or offer to send it later if they’re interested.
 
Blogger relations: While more and more bloggers receive pitches (even I do), you are much more offering information than giving it. Even the bloggers who make a living out of their blogs take a more hands-on approach with their content than traditional reporters do. Bloggers not only deal with content, but they do “design and layout” too. Reporters don’t. While still offering to send bloggers information, be ready with links for them to go and get it. Give bloggers the chance to truly make the content their own. I’m mostly talking places where they can go and pull down images and video. Think Flickr, YouTube, etc.
 
Monitoring
 
Once you have your media list, you should automatically subscribe to them, either via mail or email, or their RSS feed. Whether traditional or social, set up a Google Alert for your subject to help track success from your efforts.
 
Media relations: As you possibly did when you developed and researched your media, use a paid service like BurrellesLuce, Cision and TVEyes. These services will give you reports, plus data on the circulation, Nielsen rating other common metric.
 
Blogger relations: Some of the tools you used to first select your list can play into the monitoring. The services like Techrigy, et al, are great for seeing who’s blogging about your subject, as well as commenting, tweeting and other ways to reference it in social media. If you can’t use the paid services, there are plenty of free ones, like Social Mention and Google Blog Search mentioned above. Other free social media search tools include Twitter Search, Boardreader and even Yahoo! Pipes. While these are free, you will spend much more time monitoring and reporting your results than you will with a paid service. Weigh the costs-benefit tradeoffs.
 
While ultimately seeking to achieve the same results – third party writing about your subject – the process of traditional media relations and social media relations is different enough that you cannot apply the same old, same old to new media. Each media has its one nuances and benefits in coverage received. Don’t treat traditional and social media the same.

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Michael  Driehorst, president and founder of Diamond Communications, is a proven public relations professional who knows how to develop the right set of strategies and matching tactics to achieve communication objectives for the right target audience. After an early career as a newspaper journalist, Mike has worked in public relations and marketing communications since 1994. He has been active in social media marketing since 2005; read his blog.

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