The Social Media Challenge Facing Newsrooms

The Conversation Prism by Brian Solis and Jesse Thomas

Though I’ve never met him in person, I frequently read Brian Solis’ blog, dubbed PR 2.0. The San Francisco-based Solis is considered to be a thought-leader for those in the world of public relations who are trying to grapple with social media.

If the idea of looking for lessons for the newsroom from someone in PR makes you shudder, well, get over it. On a fundamental level, newsrooms and PR are dealing with the same shifting dynamics in terms of communication, social media tools, and the challenge of telling stories to an increasingly elusive and fragmented audience/community/whatever-we’re-calling-them-these-days.

On his blog, Solis recently posted the above graphic, which he calls “The Conversation Prism.” Solis writes:

“The Conversation Prism debuted in August 2008 to provide a visual representation of the true expansiveness of the Social Web and the conversations that define it.”

You’ll have to really squint to see all the little social media icons. If you want to see it in greater detail, go here. But it’s less the details and more the overall picture that interests me here. From the high level view, it really gives you the sense of just how immensely complex the distribution channels have become for news, information and conversation on the Web.

How can a newsroom possibly get its arms around all of this?

There’s no easy answer. But this summarizes, I think, the size of the challenge. It’s why, as a start, I’d put someone on this job full-time. And it’s why everyone in the newsroom probably needs to be involved in the effort.

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6 Responses

  1. I wholeheartedly agree that this deserves at least one full-time person to handle this. Here’s the challenge we must answer: as newsrooms are shrinking, and people are asked to do more tasks, how can we convince GMs and other managers to let one person have one job?This is the question posed to me and many other of my peers. I was unable to satisfactorily answer this on two fronts: there is no economic support for this idea (yet) and committing 5-6 people for an hour a day is the same.So … now what?

  2. Michael:To your point, I’d check this post I did a few weeks back on another blog about the social media manager at the L.A. Times.It’s hard to compute a financial value for any of us, frankly, at this moment in time. Still, I think the folks at the L.A. Times would point to certain success in building community, reader engagement, etc. that certainly must have some value.

  3. I also liked the AD AGE article that is linked from here, which created this thought for me…Local Media must be a part of the solution to the marketers’ problems. They have budgets, but need a clue. If this is their new advice, then local media needs to be the host of alot of the conversations in a community to help marketers answer these new challenges.Local media can stir the pot on topics of interest with the news of the moment, but also provides insight into opinions and attitudes of the audience.http://adage.com/digital/article?article_id=135605How to listen and respond more effectivelyKNOW YOUR CONSUMERS’ SOCIAL-MEDIA HABITS. “What you see is not necessarily representative of people using the social technologies, but the people using those social technologies and like to talk,” said Forrester’s Josh Bernoff.HAVE A RESPONSE MECHANISM IN PLACE. Don’t wait until you have vocal critics to design a response plan. Rather than pulling its ad and issuing an apology on its site that confused the 90% of people who weren’t aware of the criticism, Motrin could have engaged the angry mob.LOOK FOR CHANGES IN CHATTER. If suddenly the conversation doubles, or if people start talking about your brand in a way they weren’t the day before, something important is happening. “Changes in attitudes are more significant about attitudes themselves,” Mr. Bernoff said.PINPOINT PASSION. Your critics can provide you with insight into a base you didn’t know existed. Who, for example, were these “attachment parenting” moms so outraged by Motrin? Not all criticism is cause for action, Communispace’s Diane Hessan said. But it is cause to dig deeper.

  4. Chris: Brian S. is a good friend, I’ll introduce you.Michael: Social media isn’t a job for one person to handle. It’s a job for the entire newsroom to handle.

  5. JD: Yes, would like to meet Brian. I was on a Bulldog virtual panel with him once, but never have met in person.To the larger point, I’d agree that getting everyone involved is ideal. What I liked about the LA Times approach is that they have a social media manager who is out there evangelizing in the newsroom, training folks, and making sure that social media is part of the daily conversation in the newsrooms and news meetings. But they’re definitely trying to extend that work to as many folks in the newsroom as possible. On a symbolic level, having that social media manager also makes a strong statement on behalf of management that this stuff is important to the mission, not just something to do from time to time.

  6. JD – Not only am I with you there, I believe it’s a job for the entire building to have a hand in. My point is that it still requires at least one person full time to manage the information & effort. Believe me, I have everyone in my building doing something … it’s still not enough without one social media person directing it all.

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