The rise of the citizen journalist

The rise of the citizen journalist

There is no question that social media has crept its way into public relations strategies over the past few years.

Less like a slithering snake creeping up on its prey and more like a lovestruck teenager throwing rocks at your window in the middle of the night.

Bottom line, they’re just meant to be together.

Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t around to witness Lloyd Dobler holding the boombox outside Dian’s window in 1989. That’s right, I’m a proud millennial, born in 1994 - so it’s safe to assume I’m part of the generation who won’t recall the pre-digital discipline.

I have however, had the chance to witness the change in the way people interact with content. Regardless of what side of the spectrum you’re on, social is here and it’s offering you more access to your target audience than ever before.

Traditional PR is NOT dead, it’s just changing

Why should you care about social media? This isn’t your classic case of click bait, which is why I didn’t entitle this piece “Traditional PR is Dead!”

No, no - your traditional PR tactics are still incredibly important and useful. I’m just asking that instead of using grandma’s same old recipe for turkey stuffing for the 10th year in a row, you add an extra special spice this time around.

There are millions of blogs out there in the world. What does this mean for publicists? You now have a direct line to some of the most influential people for your brand.

Take the tech industry for example, everyone and their dog has an app these days and many tech journalists now want to see a significant amount of users before their willing to write about you. So how do you get those users if you don’t have the media coverage? That my friend, is where the role of the citizen journalist enters at stage right.

The power of the influencer

With the overwhelming amount of ads in social media newsfeeds, it’s pretty easy to get lost in the sea of products trying to reach their customers.

And hey, I love paid media just as much as the next guy - but when you’re looking for a little bit more of a personal touch to encourage a brand ambassador, I’ll always recommend adding influencer outreach to your PR strategy.

You might be asking yourself, what is an influencer exactly?

Well, I’d like to introduce you to Brody - Brody is your typical twenty-something and admittedly overly-obsessed with his car. Brody has almost 15K followers on Instagram and has an insane amount of engagement.

Why? Because people love to see people talk and brag about what their passions are, there’s something authentic about it that just pulls people in. One of the many things Brody posts about on his Instagram is his car's exhaust. He frequently is interchanging them for different looks and is always giving shoutouts to the brands that make them. So let’s say you're a new to the market exhaust manufacturer looking to build exposure for your brand via an online community. You could reach out to 3 or 4 different people like Brody and offer different types of incentives in exchange for a little promotion. Perhaps you send Brody one of your products at a discount in exchange for a few posts and an honest review of the brand, maybe even throw in some stickers (that’s not a joke, people are obsessed with stickers).

Never forget the niche bloggers

Never underestimate the power of a really well done and honest review of a product.

If you’re not getting coverage from the publications on your media wish list, don’t fret!

There’s still an incredibly valuable way to grow your brand awareness using niche bloggers. These bloggers have very specific audiences and often review and promote products they think their followers will love, and what a better way to get your product on their radar than to reach out to them on social media. There are countless ways that you can do this but start by inserting yourself into the conversation, ask them for advice, shoot you an email, hop in a DM chat, just always remember to be authentic. One of the biggest problems with social media marketing is everyone’s looking to automate and frankly, it’s annoying. Honesty is the best policy, and authenticity isn’t that far behind.

Using social media to track down and engage with some of the bloggers (and even writers for some of the bigger publications on your list) can help you learn about how to best pitch your product. You can get a really good gauge of personality sifting through a journalist's twitter feed, seeing what they enjoy themselves, what they typically write about. I’ve even seen journalists put in their twitter bios what they do and do not accept pitches for, THIS can be a superpower for you in winning the niche bloggers in your media wish list and even those top tier publications.

Another tip to keep in mind when searching for niche bloggers is their social credentials as I like to call it.

There’s no sugar coating - social media is a game of optics, but there’s no shame! When hunting down those perfect blogs that speak exactly to what and who you are as a brand, before you begin your traditional PR outreach it’s important to make sure that when they promote those posts on their social media platforms that they have an audience that’s big enough to make an impact you’re hoping for. These audiences will usually be significantly smaller than the bigger players of course but that will only make it easier to get on their radar when you add your social media outreach to the mix!

As I’m sure you’ve probably already figured out, these two strategies are one 6 half dozen of the other.

A niche blogger can be an influencer and an influencer can have a niche blog, and so on but the most important thing to remember is to just be present. 

Social media is where your audience is going to be, it’s up to you whether you meet up with them or not.

Jared Goodman is a glass ceiling shattering millennial and social media enthusiast. After graduating with an intensive diploma in Business Marketing he found his true love for Public Relations at Onboardly. Often referred to as the Growth Hacker in Training, Jared has used new-age social media/influencer relations and content marketing tactics to help launch dozens of startups and is making a name for himself in the digital media space.

Photo via Pixabay

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