Five lessons from a real newsroom that translate to real-time marketing

Five lessons from a real newsroom that translate to real-time marketing

Start your day smart by "reading-in."

Let’s get real for a second: the media has been doing real-time marketing for years, but we just called it news.

Now, as more brands and agencies create real-time engagement and content creation centers, they could learn some lessons from those of us who spent time in the newsroom trenches:    

Start your day smart. A newsroom mentor drilled into me early-on the importance of “reading-in.” This is journalism-speak for reading news from a variety of sources to make sure you understand what’s happening in the world. I spend an hour reading-in every morning. That may seem like big time investment (especially in a billable environment), but it’s vital to anyone in the communication field. Whether you’re talking to reporters or managing digital channels, the biggest mistake you can make is being tone-deaf to the world around you.

Be relevant. In my book, real-time marketing is really just a buzzword for being relevant. You must be relevant to your fans and followers, to the media you’re pitching, and to your stakeholders. Reading-in will help, but more than that, you need to know your audience, and understand that it’s often a moving target. In TV news, my target demo changed from show to show and day to day. Social listening, analysis and engagement can help you tell the most meaningful stories to the right people, at the right time, in the right channels.

Tell stories. The first question I want answered from clients isn’t message points and POVs. It’s this: what is the story you want to tell? Especially when it comes to real-time marketing, we may not know all the elements of the story going in, but we should have a solid understanding of the characters. And that’s not just spokespeople, but the brand itself: what does it represent, what is its attitude? Knowing those things will help answer a lot of the initial questions about whether or not you even want to engage in the first place. Pitches, pictures, social posts, blogs and videos, planned or opportunistic, all need to tell a story and tie back to the bigger brand story.

Act quickly. You can’t wait 24 hours to act on real-time opportunities. In social media, you’re stretching it to wait 24 minutes. But there are tricks news pros use to cut down reaction time. First, plan for the things that are likely to happen so you can act quickly when they do. That can be everything from holidays and expected events, to known news drivers like weather and gas price spikes. Next, create templates. At one network, we had a binder of fill-in-the-blank scripts and pre-cut video for major world events. We also knew exactly who to call to get on the air at any time on any day. Then we practiced with actual breaking news drills. Having systems in place and running the traps to keep them current can help you take advantage of real-time opportunities.

Traditional or digital--it’s all media. Information is information, and fewer people are making the distinction about where it comes from anymore. That’s part of what I love about my job: I’m at the cross roads of digital and traditional media, finding ways to make one work for the other. The news industry is coming to this realization (though maybe not fast enough) and it’s the PR industry’s job to be a step ahead.

Stephanie Matthews spent nearly 15 years as a television news producer at the local and network level before joining Golin as the Director of Real-time Engagement. In her role as the leader of “The Bridge,” she helps a diverse roster of high-profile clients act on real-time opportunities.

Photo: Newspaper and tablet via Shutterstock

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