5 newsroom lessons for real-time marketers

Journalists make a living by responding to breaking events. Here’s how you can translate their techniques into timely, relevant branding efforts.

Let’s get real: Journalists have been conducting real-time marketing for years, but we just called it news.

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

1. 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 might 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.

2. Be relevant.

Real-time marketing is just a buzzword for being 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 have 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 from day to day. Social media monitoring, analysis, and engagement can help you tell meaningful stories to the right people, at the right time, in the right channels.

3. Tell stories.

The first question I want answered from clients isn’t about message points and POVs. It’s this: What story do you want to tell?

Especially when it comes to real-time marketing, we might not know all the elements of the story going in, but we should have a solid understanding of the characters. That’s not just spokespeople, but the brand itself: What does it represent, and what is its attitude?

Knowing those things will help answer a lot of questions about whether you want to engage in the first place. Pitches, pictures, social posts, blogs, and videos—be they planned or opportunistic—all should tell a story and tie back to the bigger brand story.

4. Act quickly.

You can’t wait 24 hours to respond to real-time opportunities. On social media, you’re stretching it to wait 24 minutes.

There are tricks that news pros use to cut down reaction time. First, plan for things that are likely to happen so you can act quickly when they do. That can be everything from holidays and scheduled events to known news drivers such as 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 whom 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 keeping them current can help you take advantage of real-time opportunities.

5. Traditional or digital-it’s all media.

Information is information, and fewer people are making the distinction about its source. That’s part of what I love about my job: I’m at the crossroads of digital and traditional media, finding ways to make one work for the other.

The news industry is realizing this (though maybe not fast enough), and it’s PR pros’ job to be a step ahead.

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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. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a platform that helps companies and PR firms get press, receive email alerts when journalists tweet or write stories about them, and measure the success of their work.

Topics: PR

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