Anyone who has spent time as a working journalist is familiar with the Five W’s, those all-important questions that build the foundation of a sound story: who, what, when, where and why. But something eluding the modern broadcaster, much like the modern teenager, is a sense of how to take their pivotal questions and place them in a unique social setting. This is the question a savvy anchor, producer or web content manager is charged with answering every day. I’ve made some headway.
Over the course of a year as an online content manager in a top-100 media market, I learned that the success or failure of a post extends far beyond its adherence to traditional news values—it needs a sense of context, not only insofar as providing readers with a bite-sized idea of what they’ll be learning, but in containing a sense of awareness for the venue in which it’s appearing.
Never forget: Social media is a deeply unique space. It shares none of the constraints of legacy media, and it comes with its own set of norms, even a special vibe.
Here are the top three tips a successful digital PR professional can take from TV’s unique form of social media interaction to turn their client’s social presence from ‘okay’ to ‘outstanding:’
1. Movement is Mesmerizing
When I say movement, I’m talking about something multifaceted: First of all, I’m asking you to try and include literal movement. The online environment is cluttered, and we’re beyond the days when a single stock photo is all a tweet needs to grab a viewer’s attention.
This is the age of the .gif, and viewers look to social spaces as an expression of a brand’s personality, not just its capacity to display a newsworthy item. Track down the millennial at the office, and get caught up on the latest meme. Use it.
Beyond requiring movement in the literal sense, you must also ask it of your viewer’s minds and keyboards. When I was in news, our most trafficked responses were those that asked questions, because they made minds move, opened opinions and invited dialogue.
Sometimes, asking “what do you think?” is the key to a brilliant post performance.
2. Emotion is Appealing
Human beings are social animals, which has a lot to do with why we get such a kick out of social media.
The newspapermen of old saw a weekend feature on a family whose Christmas was saved by the generosity of a small town as “fluff,” but the savvy social medialite needs to see past that classification. Emotion equals shares, especially when it’s coupled with a call to action.
Human interest stories need a special frame, and it’s the job of a social influencer to see the capacity to inject meaning into a story that may otherwise fly under the radar. The modern digital PR professional must adhere to the 5 W’s while not letting a client’s goal out of focus.
Mastering the art of brand mentions in this sense requires not only careful consideration of the client’s goals, but an ability to focus on news value. TV teaches us a great lesson in that regard.
Tease the story, but leave readers wanting more: “One couple thought Christmas dreams couldn’t possibly come true for their two children, but then a generous donation changed things.” Couple it with an image that evokes emotion (and features your brand if possible), and end with a call to action: “You too can help children have a brighter Christmas. Read more.”
3. Novelty is Newsworthy
Though it may not be shocking in itself that novelty is a newsworthy element, this item makes the list for one special purpose. Stations that get so caught up in producing television can forget that the web exists as a place for all the other news. Shockingly, even public relations and marketing firms can fall into similar traps. Ask your digital content creators to be more than ‘web guys,’ ask them to be social influencers. It works, and here’s how I know:
During the nation’s second-largest motorcycle rally, a bike right beneath the TV station I was working for at the time burst into flames, sending a pressurized column of fire and smoke nearly 30 feet into the air. It was a sight to behold, and I was able to source a great video from an immediate bystander. The internet loved everything about it: The buildup, the explosion, the heroism of the bystanders who hurriedly moved other people’s motorcycles out of harm’s way. It was a successful post for the reasons it wouldn’t have made the broadcast: It was too short, it wasn’t particularly well-sourced and it lacked good B-roll. But it was beloved online, where it remained our top story for almost three days.
Ultimately, PR professionals can make major progress online by remembering that TV offers some unique lessons in social media management. Utilize the venue for what it’s worth, make movement and always remember the value in novelty.
If you’re looking for help enhancing a client’s social presence, or even building your own, simply let us know. We’ve seen it all.