Anchors, reporters, producers and photographers in television newsrooms across the country increasingly rely on social media in rather innovative ways to engage with viewers and gather elements for stories.
On Tuesday, Jan. 26, ProfNet hosted its latest #ConnectChat on Twitter. Emmy Award-winning anchor Michelle Li (@MichelleLiTV) of WISC-TV, the CBS-affiliate in Madison, Wisconsin, joined us to discuss how broadcasters use the tools on the job and offered tips to public relations specialists hoping to interact with journalists on social media channels.
You have more than half a million followers and your station bio includes at least eight social media links. How do you maintain a presence on all those channels?
You have to make an effort every day, but there are great tools to keep you active -- ones you probably use, such as TweetDeck, Buffer, and the scheduler on Facebook.
Are you more active on some social media channels as opposed to others?
Yes. Our biggest audience is still on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I still think Google Plus is a useful tool. I love hangouts. Periscope, Facebook Mentions and Facebook Live are also helpful. We use a variety of tools for interactivity.
How do you feel about getting cold pitches from social media pros via social media?
I actually love getting any story idea. The problem is the pitch usually stinks. We all know people will watch good content. So, why are the pitches so bad? We need urgency, relevance in pitches. In my opinion, journalists love pitches. But understanding good story ideas and what makes news is most important.
What about the idea of public relations specialists offering links to downloadable b-roll and soundbites with their press releases and pitches? Would that serve the urgency issue?
It certainly doesn’t hurt, though we won’t always use it. We mostly want to shoot ourselves, but there are cases. For example, if it’s shot in a location we can’t be or it already happened. Then we would definitely consider running the video.
I think people send us lame pitches too often. If you’re known for that, we start ignoring your emails. At the same time, we don’t expect you to know our needs. We just get some ‘way out there’ pitches at times.
We get a lot of softball stories from PR folks or events. But if we can find something harder out of that pitch, we can go to our news folks with a potential lead. That will almost always be too hard to refuse. I’m always looking for the hardest possible angle.
Do the same standards hold true for content you stream in hangouts and livestreams you previously mentioned?
Yes. I ask people to do hangouts from their phones when we can’t be there. For example, Ferguson.
Get your folks in front of a screen. Always push your clients to do webcam-type interviews. I hate phoners. They are bad television.
Do you believe livestreaming will turn traditional broadcast news on its head?
It gives public relations clients more opportunities to get in front of multiple audiences.
I think the next step is to make livestreams meaningful for replay. Can it be done so people watch for hours or days later?
What’s the overall takeaway for public relations specialists?
Be able to truly interact. Be involved in a journey of discovery. Be genuine.
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