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You’re a busy social media professional, and through your efforts, your company page has gained numerous dedicated followers. People engage with your posts and want to connect with you. Why, then, should you try to get a story using traditional media? Does that even matter anymore?
The short answer: yes — but before we go further, we need to define the distinct categories of media we all use.
consists of any content your brand or company owns, including branded social media pages, blogs, websites, and other information on your marketing platform.
includes advertising, promoted media, pay-per-click content, and anything else that requires payment.
Traditional, earned media
includes information published by a third-party media organization. Earned media is free and shared broadly with the public. It differs from paid media because instead of you telling your audience how great you are, another source is praising you—and that source typically offers more credibility and influence than any one organization can provide on its own.
Traditional media is available both locally and nationwide, as well as via trade outlets. It also includes industry awards, review sites, and word of mouth. Traditional media can deliver a range of publicity, from short mentions to full-length feature stories (the goal of most organizations). Once you have a feature story on TV, radio, or print, you can share it through your owned media and gain even more interest and followers.
Ideally, your story would convey content that viewers, listeners, and readers respond to strongly and positively. It might reach audiences looking for a love story about a couple who fell in love over the course of several Happy Hours at your restaurant. It might be about a special relationship between a mentor and a youth, or a skill your organization taught to someone who is differently abled, to better their opportunities.
Any one of these stories has excellent potential to attract reporters, anchors, producers, and radio hosts. Though social media has surpassed traditional media in finding audiences, there is still the issue of who is telling those audiences how great you are.
Most organizations come to find out that the stories people hear about their brands are stronger when they are told by another source. Ads and marketing can be irritating if people see them too much. Even if you are sharing stories on social media, you are vying for attention with every other individual and group on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), TikTok, Pinterest and elsewhere.
If, on the other hand, you can also share something that engages, informs, and inspires your target audience that is “verified” or confirmed by a third-party traditional media outlet, your story is more likely to be credible to others. Think of your brand as a guest at a party. If she chatters to everyone else about her accomplishments, what is the likely reaction? (Hint: I doubt she will be popular).
On the other hand, if a guest arrives and several other people are talking about her accomplishments, won’t more people at the party be paying attention to her? That’s what traditional public relations professionals can do for you, and what you can do for your organization as a social media professional.
How do you add public relations to your strategic toolkit? Essentially, what you need is a plan combining owned and earned media that will deepen your connection with your audience. The first step is to define the difference between a social media story and one that works best for traditional media.
Good social media stories show a snapshot of your organization.
They create opportunities for conversation. They give you the ability to share day-to-day events or stories about employees and the people you serve.
For example, you might want to share a dessert of the day or feature a week’s worth of images connected to your new business. You may also want to post a joke if it’s relevant to the work you do. It’s also important to reply to comments and share images, recipes, and employee profiles. In short, social media is less formal than traditional media. It is more personal and less precise.
Traditional, earned media stories are more formal, with facts and background information that builds trust in your organization when the story comes from professionally vetted sources.
Earned media stories are subjected to fact-checking and are created by authorized journalists/reporters. Earned media’s goal is to inform the audience through careful attention to facts and details.
Integrating traditional media stories with your social media strategy may call for the services of a public relations professional, but it can also be implemented by a digital marketing professional. If you oversee social media, think about how to add a traditional media pitch to your week.
Wait, you say. How do I do that?
First, think about the story you want to tell that hasn’t received much attention yet.
- Would you like to see that story on the evening news?
- Would you like to hear about it on a drive-time radio news hour?
- Would reading the story in a local or national magazine bring you more followers?
Secondly, follow some of the people whose stories move you on traditional media, via Twitter or another social media platform.
- Identify professionals who tell the kind of stories you want to share. Think about what attracts people to your organization and how you help them thrive. Look for unique angles and storylines people don’t see every day.
- Craft a pitch or two about your story and tailor your pitch to the reporter.
- Follow up your pitch with a call. Reporters receive scores of emails every day, and a polite call can often mean the difference between getting your story covered and being ignored.
Chances are, if your story is told well, a media creator will respond favorably and want to learn more. Keep in mind that your story idea needs to feature one or more people who will be comfortable talking with the reporter.
The person you select for an interview should be enthusiastic about her/his experience with your brand. The exciting thing about such stories is they can migrate—from local TV to national news, from one radio station to others, and from local papers to national magazines.
The other reward you’ll find when dealing with reporters and various media outlets is that you are building relationships with traditional media—which are often connected to a variety of major brands. Eventually, these relationships will serve you well as you further your career, while expanding the number of people who learn about your organization through traditional storytelling.
Don’t forget that once those stories are published, you can share them throughout your branded and owned media. That spreads the word about the work you and your organization are doing to an even greater audience. Because someone else is telling others about your work, those who see your story will be more apt to listen, read, or view it and want to share your news with friends.
Ultimately, a two-pronged strategy involving traditional public relations/media and social media posting is the best way to expand your reach and visibility. If you’re a social media maven but not a social person, you may want to collaborate with a public relations professional. If you do enjoy social interaction, you may want to manage your own public relations work. Either way, it’s a win-win for you—and the organization you represent.
Author: Jenna Zark
Jenna Zark, Principal at Zark Writing LLC, has worked in journalism, public relations, video script writing, philanthropy and communications positions. She is an award-winning playwright and published author whose most recent book Crooked Lines won six awards and honors in 2023, including first prize in the Overcoming Adversity Memoir Category from Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Please visit www.jennazark.com to learn more.