Social media is fundamentally changing the role that journalists take in the news, from the way they receive pitches and communicate with sources to the formats they choose for creating content. These changes have transformed journalists into critical figures of influence in a world of digital communication. An understanding of the habits and interests that journalists gain from this shift is key for anyone attempting to inject their client or their brand into the online dialogue. In Stacey Miller’s SmartBrief article, “How to Engage Journalists on Social Media,” she outlines the five major groups of American journalists based on how they have adapted to social media in their professions, along with the best ways to interact with them.
The first group, Architects, is the most bonded with social media in their profession—83 percent surveyed reported that they could not do their jobs without it. This data lines up predictably with their demographic breakdown, as 58 percent of them are under the age of 45 and none are older than sixty-five. The Architects are the journalists who approve of social media, embrace it, and are open to communicating with PR professionals.
Next are the Promoters, the group which includes the majority of American journalists. Ninety-seven percent reported using social media for activities from posting their own content to interacting with their followers to keeping track of trends in the industry and their audiences. The best way to build connections with Promoters is to start a conversation with them and to share the content they create online.
The middle ground is taken by the Hunters, about half of whom say their proficiency with social media is high. But while nearly all Hunters claim good relations with PR professionals, only thirty-four percent hold them as reliable sources, preferring instead to use experts and industry representatives. Furthermore, 68 percent of those surveyed think that social media is a necessity that is undermining traditional journalism’s values. Emphasizing the industry leaders you’re connected to is the best way to reach out to these journalists.
Observers are even less engaged on social media and the least likely to utilize user-created content for their work. These journalists still use social media daily to follow discussions about their own work and read content from people they follow, but sixty-one percent rate their proficiency with social media as “reasonable,” and only twenty-seven percent say it is a positive force for journalism. It’s best to approach them more traditionally with a pitch while keeping up with their posts to stay in contact.
The final group—Skeptics—are both the least active with social media and the least likely to trust it. Half of them use it less than daily and half say their competence is either low or insufficient. They are partial to contact via emails or phones, and their disinclination to see PR professionals as good sources means you’re best off playing up the experts you’re connected to. The fact is that Skeptics are the fastest shrinking of all these groups. In the future, you will likely find yourself increasingly moving away from traditional pitches to using social media as a means for building relationships with important communications players in the industry.
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