Not only has social media changed how people consume news, but it has also transformed the way how journalists work. In this exclusive Telum Media’s webinar, four top journalists from East Asia revealed their social media habits and shared tips on how PRs can navigate market differences. A poll posted during the webinar also confirmed that social media and digital communications platforms have taken a key role in connecting journalists and communication professionals, with 67% of respondents saying they have successfully pitched a journalist via WhatsApp, followed by WeChat (30%) and LinkedIn (21%).
Below is a summary of the discussion and key takeaways:How Journalists Use Social Media
- Build it Like a Brand: Vivienne Chow, an award-winning freelance journalist specialising in arts, culture and cultural politics, builds her social media platform like her own brand. She spends time on it daily to reach out to her audience and source story ideas. “Social media plays a huge role as part of my work. I use Twitter to know what’s been going on around the globe and keep myself updated. I try to maintain one post per day on Instagram mostly on the artworks I’ve seen with a short review or caption,” she said. With more than 130,000 followers on Twitter, Vivienne said: “It requires you to socialise with people and take conversations further. I try to be sociable and responsive.”
- Digital First: “Everything must be digital-first and online first,” said Liu Kwangyin, English Website Editor at CommonWealth Magazine. Her print publication has undergone a digital transformation over the past eight years she spent there. Journalists now have to split their time between print and digital content, such as hosting their own podcast programmes and coming up with social media posts. Meanwhile, social media platforms play an increasingly important role in people's daily consumption of news. “Half of them get news from LINE. They also get news from Facebook and YouTube,” she said.
- Platform Differences: Wang Feng, Editor-in-Chief at FTChinese.com, said the Chinese-language website of the Financial Times primarily provides content relating to international business, trade and geopolitics. Its WeChat public account, with 700,000 fans, is an important avenue for engaging with its professional audience. Meanwhile, its Weibo account is followed by 2.5 million fans from the general public.
Dos and Don’ts
- Readers Engagement: Allan Tan, a former PR professional and now Editor-in-Chief at CXOCIETY, said he often uses social media for engaging PR agencies and his reader base with the outlet’s content. For example, he has more than 5,400 LinkedIn connections. “Engaging PR via email is not effective. Therefore, I just post on social media platforms or groups about the stories I am working on,” he said.
- Be who you are: As a freelancer, Vivienne said the key to standing out in the ocean of social media is building your own personality. “Don’t be shy,” she said, “I mostly tweet the stuff I am interested in personally. I would not be pretending someone I am not.”
- Echo Chamber: Wang Feng is concerned about how algorithms are affecting what people read. A lot of journalists are very suspicious of algorithms, he said, describing it as an "echo chamber" that narrows down people's interests. “That’s what the social media platforms have not cracked - how to get you out of the echo chambers.” Journalists would rather want to inspire their readers. It may require more work for a balance to be struck in this space, he said.
Pitching Tips for PRs
- Tackle Misinformation: While private chat groups are convenient to use, Kwangyin said one concern among journalists is that they can potentially spread misinformation. She highlighted the need to check the facts using technology in providing truly credible and valuable information to readers.
- One-on-One: Rather than relying on secondary information, Allan prefers one-on-one meetings to obtain credible information and insights.
- Instagram DM: Besides getting pitches via emails, Vivienne now gets more materials via Instagram direct messages. "This is especially so after this function is made available on web browsers - most of these people I know personally [use it]," she said.
- Work Smart: Allan said: "I get most traction on WhatsApp. If PR professionals are pitching me, go to my WhatsApp first, and if I'm interested, we'll continue the discussion on email." He encouraged PR agency to work smart in engaging journalists. “Understand the media and the editors you are pitching to. And go right to the point to have a greater chance of success.”
- Referrals: “Pitch accordingly! As a financial and business news organisation, we are only interested in a small range of topics, and we screen out unrelated press materials. PRs are recommended to learn what journalists cover," Wang Feng said. A second-hand recommendation works much better than a blank email, he added.
- Tailored Content: Digital content needs to be tailored in accordance with the targeted audience. Publishing on Facebook and Youtube can expose content to totally different demographic groups, Kwangyin said.