and do you need one?
I'll be honest, I read 'social media newsroom' and I'm instantly confused. I've thought about it for a while now, since the term started being bandied about, and I still don't get it. I think this is a classic example of where PR jargon, marketing semantics and established ideas collide in the digital age. I am sure it's important for marketers to think through how their website can act as a hub to encourage engagement with customers, influencers and other stakeholders and it's too important to be thought of as a PR responsibility. A "News" area of the site with dull, drab press releases just doesn't cut it any more. I'd love to know what you think, and if you can share examples of companies getting it right.
Here's where I'm at…
What it a social media newsroom?
It's probably better to start by asking what a traditional website press area or web newsroom is? In it's simplest sense it's a collection of press releases, a list of important people or an org chart, in larger organisations you'll see that appended with downloadable guides, white-papers or ebooks, sometimes videos or AGM meeting notes are thrown in with the occasional, downloadable annual report. Remember those!? See Scania, which I'd suggest has classic approach despite being labelled social.
So what makes a newsroom social appears to be share icons! That, plus the possible streaming of company content from external social sites such as Flickr and YouTube. It appears if you're really social, you'll maybe load all of the into a WordPress blog with a newsroom theme, at least then the platform is designed for easy categorising and social sharing, right out of the box.
If 'social media newsroom' means share icons, then there are a lot of companies getting it right. But surely what we're seeing here are 'share-able newsrooms'? From the examples that I've seen so far, and the size of the companies behind them, there's a lot missing before we're social.
The problem and the two missing ingredients
I'm going to stick my neck out here. Journalists are not as useful as they used to be, yet newsrooms focus on them. Sorry, I said it. Journalists remain a critical part of a much more complex means to get your brand story communicated and shared, so focussing a "newsroom" around journalists is missing the real opportunity in 2011.
The reality is that you need to consider a wider influential network that includes journalists searching for useful content, that mix would include customers, journalists, industry experts and commentators, and bloggers. Consider what can you do for them in order they can help you, it certainly requires more than what we're seeing at the moment. There's an interesting write-up here from First Direct, yet they seem to focus on journalists when your look at the social newsroom itself, so again it misses the opportunity.
Given that social media is about people, in this case your target mix of influencer thats you want to communicate with, the social element is about building and nurturing relationships with them, not just journalists, and certainly not everyone. The promotion of company content, en-masse (no matter how well categorised it is) does not address the relationship building challenge. In my opinion there are two ingredients that need to be added to the share-able newsroom to make it social media newsroom.
Missing ingredient #1: listening
A relationship is centred on listening, two of the most respected examples are currently are Dell and Gatorade. So the basis for a social media newsroom would be start with defining and then monitoring influential outposts, even in it's simplest sense. You'd have people pro-actively interacting with influencers (not just journalists!) and making that target audience aware of your rich content and resources. Of course, I'm assuming that you've got interesting content designed for that audience - maybe that's missing ingredient #3! That audience will not need to come to your newsroom so much either, because of missing ingredient #2…
Missing ingredient #2: interaction or engagement
I think this is a process of interaction that puts the social into social media newsroom. Through simple integration you can start streaming selected content and interactions of panels and pages within your social newsroom - (Twitter and Facebook make this easy) this in turn brings your pages to life and provides some form of social proof of your brand out in the the social spaces and industry outposts.
Consider onsite engagement via tools and social objects - this starts simply with blog commenting through to social FAQ's (or Q&A's), just soliciting interaction on a WordPress Poll (embedded in a blog post) at least gets some level of engagement. Cisco seem to do a good job in this area in some respect.
Remember the Digital Marketing Radar - think beyond the obvious by focussing on the target audience and don't forget focussed tools that are growing in popularity such as Scribd, SlideShare.
So the answer to the initial question is maybe - yes you do need a hub to engage with influential audiences that will share your story.
Do you need a blog or a social media newsroom, only you can decide that depending on the size of your organisation, but you certainly need to move on from a simple "press" or "news" area.
Hopefully my post helps to outline how wide an area that is. Here are my 5 steps to getting started:
- Define who your audience, you influencers mix of customers, journalists and industry experts and commentators - including bloggers.
- Figure out where those influencers are online (journalists and all) and monitor what's going on. Set-up listening in a basic (Google alerts, Socialmention.com) or advanced (Radian 6) way as appropriate.
- Design and give that audience content that they value and in a format that makes most sense - that is the hardest part, it requires you've listened, asked and interacted already. Ensure that content is shareable.
- Create the appropriate hub, in it's fullest sense it may well be a social media newsroom - most likely a blog with the a few dedicated categories will suffice - remember that WordPress has thousands of free plugins!
- Integrate your hub with the outposts as it makes sense. From streaming video from YouTube, to embedding SlideShare presentations. There's more to social than Twitter.
What are your thoughts, what am I missing?