#nnsmb New North Social Media Breakfast

Just got back from the New North Social Media Breakfast or #nnsmb. Tara Fletcher (@tnfletch) and Tiffany Niederwerfer (@tifnie) spoke about how social media has worked and hasn’t worked for their organizations.

As a pr student engaged in social media.. the main points I got out of the breakfast were that content development and maintaining an online personality is key to being recognized online.

Some of what was said seemed like common sense things but I know some have trouble figuring out what that is. If you’re at an internship and tweeting for your organization… it’s not a good idea to tweet personal things. There has to be a line between work and play.

Part of the content development comes from your research about what is being talked about. Having an online presence and promoting meaningful two-way conversation with your public can be a cheap and easy way to build your base. It sounds like the only enemy to social media is time…

PR and marketing pros have a lot to do already which is why many of them are creating social media internships for students. In my opinion, many students like myself looked over opportunities in social media while searching for PR internships that involved creating press releases, pitching to the media, etc… BUT in social media.. you’d be working in the future of PR! Think about it in your search….

Tips from the pros? If you’re not already… create an online presence on Twitter and take part in conversations. You can follow conversations via Tweetchat. One I suggest for PR students is #journchat and #prstudchat. I’ve learned more from those conversations in the past couple weeks than I have in the past year of being on Twitter. Follow the decision makers in your industry to know what’s being talked about. Biggest reason to be online? You may not know it if you’re online.. you’ve been marketing and engaging in public relations for yourself already. According to a recent study, 45% of companies are researching applicants on social media resources! That number is growing by the second! Remember from what I’ve said before… if there’s any question about whether or not something is good to be in your online identity… probably shouldn’t put it up there in the first place.

This was just a taste of what they covered. More to come as I attend more events.

Thanks to @abbyweidert and everyone at @weidert for helping to put the breakfast together.

A Student… Hundreds of Professionals.. and a Discussion #journchat

Sitting on a train heading down to something I have no idea about what to expect other than to learn a lot. It is of course… the #journchat live in Chicago but it is isn’t just in this city… it’s occurring in cities all across the country and will be a coordinated event.

What stories will I hear… what would other students want to know from some of the country’s top journalists, bloggers and PR professionals?

I had the chance to ask those questions tonight.

What questions would other students want to know? I can’t forget what Walter Cronkite would do if he was in my position… he’d focus on being interested rather than trying to be the interesting one…something many students still need to learn.

I recall some discussion at the recent PRSA/PRSSA National Conference concerning the idea of students hounding professionals for internship opportunities and not caring so much about what they could learn from the professional. As students, we need to be humble and do what we can to learn from the professionals around us. Though they want to help us… we need to help them too.

We shall see….

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#journchat is now complete and I’m sitting in the hotel writing this post. I’m still in a state of shock about how much I learned from this event. This isn’t always a live event.. I was just lucky enough to go to the first ever #journchat live.

#journchat live was held inside the Chicago Tribune in one of the meeting rooms. There were about 50 people with chairs placed in group discussion placements. A series of questions like “who owns the rights to the fan’s social media experience at a sporting event?” was posted for groups to answer where discussion ensued both in person and then online via TweetChat.

I’m still trying to piece together all that I learned. I guess Cronkite’s advice ringed true tonight. Shutting your mouth and listening to others can help you learn more than you ‘d expect… especially being a student.

Tips for today:

Network with professionals. Go to their events and lend a helping hand when needed. They’ll remember you even if you did something really easy like setting something up for them. The more your network… the easier it will be to converse with professionals. Lastly, don’t walk towards them asking what THEY can do for YOU!

Stay active and create an online presence. I learned so much tonight about how important it is to have an online presence. Having an online identity is the only way to stay on top of the latest trends in public relations and the media and having an understanding about how to use social media will put you far ahead of others. Many of you may not understand how to use social media… (I’m not expert and I’m always learning)… I suggest you take part in events like #journchat to learn how you can use it. It’s not only fun but it’s also a great way to meet new people.

This is all my brain can handle for now… goodnight all.

How to Get Coverage… The Basics

The media get hundreds of emails with story ideas but few make it t coverage. What makes a story newsworthy? Knowing how and when to pitch your story is crucial. Here’s what I’ve learned as an intern in the media.

First thing to know… when does the media meet to discuss what will be covered? There’s a 9AM meeting where the reporters, producers, directors and even the interns meet to discuss what will be covered during the day. The interns are traditionally asked first… not sure why but I think it’s to make us feel more important… then things move on counter-clockwise around the table. This is where I get to see the art of pitching stories at its best. Reporters are the masters of story pitching. It’s interesting to see how the decision makers for the station chat about what stories make sense for the day and what angles should be covered.

From what I’ve seen, we’ve covered more stories that were pitched from the morning meeting rather than covering stories that have been pitched through emails. The ones we have covered through emails were very creative and stood above the rest.

When should you pitch the stories? Do some research and figure out when it would make the most sense for the media to cover a story. If you’ve got an idea surrounding healthcare… see if you can hold off until something else may come up that relates to that story… like if the President came to town to speak about healthcare. This is why it pays to be on top of the latest news. Be a little creative about when you want the story covered. Pitch when it makes sense.

If you’ve got a story needing coverage on the day of… send some information a few days before and send a reminder the day of (in the morning!!!). We have another meeting at 1:45pm where we review the stories being covered and if there are any emergency stories that need to be covered for the 10pm show.

Appeal to them by knowing when and how to pitch a story.

Many of the releases we don’t choose focus too much on the fluff of their clients, leaving out the creative side that make them PR pros. Never start a press release with “Hello Media Friend” or email with “Story Idea:” in the subject line. Give the media something to grab on to. Stating the basics in the release is good… but find a creative angle the media can take it.

I had the pleasure of covering a story that gets pitched to us a lot.. a new business opening. A new bar opened in Green Bay… what else is new in Wisconsin?… but the release had a good hook – it was featuring furniture and fixtures from a landmark eatery of many years ago. The story could have been a major commercial for them but we decided to take the angle of mixing the old with the new. They gave us something to grab on to.

Now, if the media will cover the story… make certain that you’ve got your bases covered in the release. Go above and beyond in your information though you don’t want to overwhelm the media with too much. Ask yourself… if I was a reporter.. what would I want to know? Set everything up for them.

The media will cover the story… what now? From what I’ve seen, the media prefer to do stories when they know exactly what they will be covering. Do not change the focus after they decide to cover the story. It will make things easier for them to know exactly what they are covering… especially for the producers.

After the story was covered, it’s always a good idea to send a note saying thank you for covering the story. They receive many emails upset at them for some reason about a story they covered which means the good emails stand out. They’ll remember people that appreciated them covering a story. Before you know it… you’ll be considered a great source by the media for stories.

Lastly, make sure you have a way to measure your success after coverage. Follow the conversations on Twitter and Facebook and try monitoring what is being searched on Google. These are some easy ways to know what people are talking about days after coverage.

Did I cover everything? Hopefully this will serve as a basic understanding of how the media picks what stories to cover. If I didn’t cover everything… add to the conversation.

Fast and Accurate Reporting Isn’t Always Easy

10 minutes before the newscast airs, you get a breaking news message and want to be the first to report it…. but the message isn’t consistent…. what do you report?

This was the story last night in regards to the Pittsburgh gym shooting. WPXI out of Pittsburgh sent out a written breaking news alert explaining that the gun used in the shooting was purchased from the same dealer that sold the guns used in the Virginia Tech and NIU shootings… but that wasn’t consistent with the video that displayed a receipt only showing ITEMS for his gun were purchased from that dealer. What would you report?

I was curious to know how they could report he purchased the gun from this dealer when they don’t have any hard facts. Again… the receipt only had two items of which did not include a gun. So… because I am an intern, I had the luxury of being able to call the station and figure out where they got their facts. What did I get as an answer????? “We’re assuming that he purchased the gun from the same site.” Reporting an assumed fact? OOOOOOOOooooo boy is that dangerous, especially if that turned out to not be true.

We almost went on air with the written information… a fact based on an assumption. The cool heads at WFRV found a better alternative and didn’t report it as a known fact like the Pittsburgh station did.

Here is where I saw how cut-throat the media business can be. We got that information and in an effort to be the first on air… we could have reported an assumption which was reported as a fact by another station.

The story here… reporting breaking news is great but be careful. Having a cool head and using some investigative journalism is crucial to reporting the news fast AND accurate. We would have reported the assumption if we didn’t look at the video.

If you’re not sure, report it and attribute it to your source. No one will fault you if it turns out to be wrong. Better safe than very sorry!

It’s interesting to me that the Pittsburgh station has removed that story from their web site…

If you get too excited when reporting… it could be your job. (Remember Dan Rather…)

Be cool.

Four Women and a Bottle of Glue… A Week Later

Four women in Wisconsin caused a tidal wave of media coverage when they decided to take revenge on a man that was allegedly seeing many of them behind their back by supergluing his reproductive organ to his stomach.

This has hit local, state, national and even international news. Can’t say I agree too much with what the women did but the dude wasn’t really setting himself up as an angel. It was interesting to see the mind of a reporter take hold of the story… though it did feel like we were covering something from Jerry Springer.

Angenette Levy decided to look at the other side of the issue and ask whether there’s a double-standard in a case like this. Would people have cared the same if it was four men doing something to a woman? Would people be laughing then?

Just a note but I thought it was interesting that many women we tried speaking to declined an on-camera interview… I wonder if they would have spoken if it was four males?

One counseling service we called laughed at the story and another one found some serious issues behind it.  I got to see Angenette’s skills in action to get both sides of the issue. This showed me that a reporter’s career really is about showing both sides of an issue… this case serves as a great example.

Watch @Angenette5 at 10pm. You’ll see great reporting in action.

What’s your take? Is what they did worth the possible 6 years in prison?

An Anchor for 15 Minutes

The WFRV-TV production department was nice enough to let me play an anchor for part of a newscast… a fake one that is…

I stuttered… stuttered again… and stuttered some more. It looked like I was speaking out of the side of my mouth and my hair got into a weird position (I didn’t think I styled it like that!) It would’ve been a disaster if it was really on the air… thank goodness it wasn’t. Really.. what the heck was I expecting with having no experience? I somehow thought that with no prior experience that I would be awesome at it…  but boy was I dumb!

This is a much tougher job than anyone would expect. Creating a conversational on-air personality rather than simply reading the news is tough!

They took the 6 0′clock news and let me do a read-thru as if I was Erin Davisson and Tammy Elliot. I got to sit in their chairs and read the TelePrompTer script and everything else that makes a broadcast work.

One thing I did notice during my taping was that I need more practice reading!!! I had the luxury of taping a few takes but real news anchors get one take and that’s it. In my opinion, they’ve got to be some of the best readers and public speakers.

However easy the job may seem… it’s not simply reading the news and looking pretty. It’s a whole heck of a lot more!

The biggest thing I noticed from sitting in the anchor’s chair is that you need to be an excellent reader and writer… both of which I need a lot more practice in!

I read news stories online but rarely found myself picking up a newspaper to read stories until I got to WFRV. I suggest reading stories in the paper and rewriting them in a more concise manner and maybe even a different angle. Research a story more… play reporter for a day. Before you know it… you’ll have writing samples for future internships.

If you’re feeling super ambitious and have multimedia skills you’d like to put to use, don’t wait around for an internship to come for you to do that. Try developing your own YouTube channel and putting your own stories together. Get feedback from others about what makes a great news story because every person has their own take. This will further improve your creativity skills and should give you a taste of all parts of story development.

Work on making your written and video stories conversational. What does conversational mean? Reading the news has to make the viewers feel like you’re speaking directly to them. Studying the script before a newscast is key to developing your tones and creating the conversational speech a great newscast has. For example, if there was fire that destroyed a family’s home… you wouldn’t speak like it was an upbeat and happy story!

In other words…How would you explain something to a friend? What’s the most compelling thing you’d say to them? That is usually what the lead sentence would be and when telling a story… make sure you tell all sides of the issue. People will clearly see whether or not you are an honest reporter. When anchoring, make sure to keep your emotions in check. Don’t let your mouth run off before there’s any chance of you catching it… think before you speak!

Tip of today…

Figure out what you need to practice and do it! Practice speaking clearly and concisely during your class speeches. Make it a point to rarely stutter… if it helps.. slow down your thinking to ensure those words flow from the tongue. There are plenty of other ways to get practice. Get in contact with your local Toastmasters club. They focus on making you into a great public speaker. You’ll focus on not stuttering… thinking on your feet.. and improving on the skills you already have. If you need help in writing, there are plenty of blogging platforms available to practice writing. An AWESOME one would be Bleacher Report. This site focuses mostly on sports writing but it allows for others to edit your work… allowing you to see what changes they’ve made to make you into a better writer. One of the most notable things is that many writers become syndicated after writing great pieces. Think about it…

I’ll be posting my video later today… once I get a computer without all the restrictions of the intern desk…

Coffee Break with a PR Pro

On Wednesday morning, I had my first ever coffee date with a PR pro.

@Karenredshoespr was nice enough to spend an hour with me. Here’s what we spoke about… but first let me start out with a little background of how I know her.

I know the Red Shoes PR team indirectly through Twitter and other PR involvement. I also interviewed for an internship at Red Shoes PR at the beginning of summer and have stayed in touch ever since.

We mainly spoke about relationship building and how to become a better student of PR.

I saw some similarities between what a PR professional and a reporter do with their sources.

@Karenredshoespr uses many ways to connect with clients and the media. She actively uses Twitter and Facebook to stay connected. She attends tweetups with other local professionals and makes sure to meet with them outside of work-related gatherings – networking really never stops. I warn you though…she’s a seasoned professional and has been networking with professionals for awhile.

One can easily see that a PR pro must change how they interact with each individual. One person’s idea of a professional gathering is what another may deem unprofessional.

Though it’s great to network and have fun, I suggest following a rule of thumb because we are students…. if you have any questions about whether or not it’s okay to do something, DON’T DO IT! At this point in your career, I suggest to not even try feeling professionals out to determine what’s okay. They’ll most likely respect your decision to be professional.

As students, we could suggest informational coffee dates with professionals and attend their networking sessions. Start meeting people in the profession early!

Now for a little story…

Imagine going to an event feeling like you’ve had a rough workout just before. There I was… basically dripping in sweat because I was so nervous to be in my first networking session. I shook someone’s hand I met…. only to have them not say nice to meet you but instead they wiped their sweat soaked hand on their pants and walked away… and that was just the start of my networking.  Sure, I was probably on the extreme end of things but man was that rough!!!

Since then… I think I’ve become a better student of networking because I’ve had a lot of practice.

You live and learn from your experiences. The only way you’ll get better at networking is if you practice.

It may sound silly but if you feel like you’re not ready to go to a PR networking session… try connecting with other students. Utilize your current network of friends to meet more students in other fields. You may not know it… but this is networking.

@Karenreshoespr also suggested that it’s never too early to start networking in a city or region you’d like to work. There are plenty of tweetups and other opportunities to connect with professionals in those cities.

How do you find them? Use social media tools like Twitter to find out where the professionals are meeting is easy. Check out who PR professionals are following on Twitter. Because of doing that, I was lucky enough to meet @PRsarahevans who is hosting an event in Chicago for PR professionals, bloggers and journalists. All you have to do is find them. These events are there and waiting to be found.

Once again… thank you to Karen for taking time out of her busy day for some coffee.

Thank you for reading and till next time…. start networking!