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How Storytelling through Social Media can Lead to Positive Reporting

Attendees at the PRSA St. Louis breakfast meeting engaged in conversation before
hearing from a panel of St. Louis media professionals. 

Social media hasn’t just changed how we interact and share information in our personal lives. It’s also drastically affected how journalists report the news. Last month at PRSA St. Louis’ breakfast meeting, Bonita Cornute of Fox 2 News, Joe Dwyer of the St. Louis Business Journal, and David Sheets of Perficient, Inc. (previously with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) discussed how they strategically collect information from social media and how it drives the stories they report.

Because of the 24-hour nature of social media and its ability to rapidly spread information, journalists have to make split second decisions when news breaks. Facts versus rumors, accurate numbers, credible sources – reporters must take all of this into account before posting any content; and they have to verify the accuracy of these details much faster than in traditional reporting, in order to keep up with the pace of social media.

For public relations professionals, this means we must help journalists sift through the clutter and get to the facts.

“A lot of reporters rely on public relations professionals to get the truth, not just pitch a story. Public relations professionals need to be a news gathering service. The more PR pros can fact-gather, the better they serve reporters,” said David Sheets, public relations and communications manager, Perficient, Inc.

To better serve journalists and improve media relations, the panel provided three tips for PR professionals:

  1. Provide links and hashtags. To help verify the story and give yourself credibility, lead reporters to sources of information that support your positon.

  1. Remember, communication is between people, not devices. Don't forget the human element of the relationship. Reporters want to talk to a person, not a company or an automated system.

  1. Reporters are watching what you post and say on social media. Anyone can be a channel. Make sure your story is accurate and edited, before you press send.

As social media changes into a larger and faster way to share and publish stories, professionals must adapt their relationships with reporters and assist them as they collect the news.

If you want to learn more about reporting during a crisis and how you, as a PR professional, can communicate effectively with the media, make sure to attend PRSA St. Louis’ crisis communication forum on October 13 at the Missouri History Museum.  

This post is courtesy of Liz Sharpe-Taylor, communications coordinator for The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis, associate treasurer for the PRSA St. Louis Chapter, and graduate student at The Johns Hopkins University. Follow her on Twitter at @Sharpe_Taylor.

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