Monday, May 10, 2010

Breaking news on social media: 5 step-by-step guides, plus one

As the news media and the organizations they cover gain experience with social media, a body of knowledge is coming together on how news should be released and covered in real-time, using tools like Twitter, Facebook and other networks.  With the help of clients and colleagues, I've been collecting these early efforts to codify how news gets broken on social networks.  Here are five sets of real-life experience you can draw on to revamp and revise your own approach, whether you're covering breaking news or issuing it:
  1. Making a major announcement only on Twitter:  Virgin America chose to focus announcing a North American expansion only on Twitter, including special discounts for the first travelers to book flights on the new routes.  It's a case of tight audience targeting, as the airline is the only major one based in Silicon Valley--a community that's well-established on Twitter.
  2. Using social media to broadcast critical information in an emergency requires advance planning.  Know the Network walks you through three important preparations:  creating the expectation with your audience that you'll be using social media channels during emergencies; establishing a chain-of-command for social media updates during an emergency; and doing advance training and tech support so you can move faster when a problem hits.  Because this isn't written from a solely PR perspective, this plan works for all sorts of organizations, including news organizations.
  3. Use a checklist for online breaking news:  Chris Snider of the Des Moines Register offers this checklist that the Register uses--not exhaustively, but as a reminder--to do everything from promote the breaking news online to capturing its progression in screen grabs.  At the end of the post, you can download the list in PDF form to post around your newsroom.  Some items on the list were included to "enhance the reader experience" when news is breaking, another reminder to keep that audience firmly in mind.
  4. Using Twitter to cover breaking news:  The Austin Statesman has been tweeting as @statesman, and has broken down the step-by-step process, after the fact of a real breaking story, complete with sample tweets and discussion of why decisions were made and steps taken.  Here's the original post, which also was highlighted as a case study on Twitter's own media blog.  A thorough way to learn by example.
  5. Using Twitter to correct errors in breaking news:  Regular readers will have seen this previous post on correcting a moving record, based on the experience of MSNBC on Twitter when erroneous information was shared as part of coverage of a breaking story.  To illustrate the power of mistakes in social-media coverage, check this article about coverage of the New York Times Square would-be bomber--which included someone else's Facebook profile.
The plus?  This recent Mashable article on how journalists are using social media for real results. Not all involve breaking news, but some do--and you'll get a richer picture of how reporters are finding sources, doing research and reporting with a variety of social media tools.

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1 comment:

Chris Snider said...

Thanks for linking to the breaking news checklist. I hope other news organizations find it useful.