In recent years, social media channels have taken the limelight as the preferred platform for communications and connectivity to the masses. Organizations wishing to disseminate information broadly and efficiently are embracing social media as one of their core marketing tools, even using outlets such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to pitch press releases to journalists. Many government organizations have followed suit, choosing to broadcast their press releases and other important messages via social channels.
While social platforms are an effective means of communication with stakeholders in both sectors, communicators know that every communications tool has a specific purpose and isn’t suited for every communications job, especially media relations.
Reporters and journalists’ opinions of social platforms vary. As they are the primary target of press releases, their perceptions should be taken with great concern. According to a recent article by PR Daily, journalists “view social media more as a tool for self-promotion than for connecting with sources… The biggest groups of respondents said they most often use social media for connecting with viewers and readers or promoting stories.”
Furthermore, social media lacks the authority and credibility that email holds. In the same article, reporters were asked to rank on a scale of one to ten their trust in information coming from social media. The predominant group (27.2 percent) gave it a five out of ten. According to PR Daily, reporters prefer pitches and press releases delivered via email: “Nearly half of the respondents—45 percent— said they’d rather not receive pitches through social media at all.”
The journalistic preference for email isn’t surprising. Consider the nature of email versus social media. Social media is transitory and dynamic in nature: it’s hard to keep up with the constant flow of information and easy to miss important messages. Email, on the other hand, is static and unobtrusive. It stays resident in one’s inbox, and can be easily stored, categorized and filed. It lacks the social chatter that may disrupt the focus and impact of a tightly packaged and delivered message. Responses are one-to-one and direct to the sender.
Press releases are staples in government communications. They enable journalists to continue to disseminate important government information to the public. Proponents of social platforms should take caution in using social media as the primary channel to deliver news stories to both journalists and the public. Traditional email communication allows for direct connection and information delivery that supports building a relationship with a reporter over time.