In a free-flowing question/answer format, NBC 15 anchors Carleen Wild and Leigh Mills shared their experience with how social media has affected their jobs as public faces in the media. While a terrific source of story leads, social media has also presented challenges for both of them in terms of time commitment and protecting their privacy.
For both her personal and business use, Carleen manages four Facebook pages, two Twitter accounts and a LinkedIn profile. “We are required to be on Facebook for the station and everyone takes a role. It is a great medium for getting news out about school closings and weather.” She noted the volume of the information, and the time it can take to manage all the social spaces can at times be overwhelming. “I can start my day on Tweetdeck and pretty soon an article here, a link there, and I haven’t even touched what I need to be doing that day.”
She said Twitter has been an excellent tool for booking guests and meeting new people. You could feel the public relations professionals in the room sit up and take notice when she said she would rather get a direct message on Twitter about a potential story than the 300 to 400 emailed press releases she gets in a day.
Carleen also commented on the flip side of social media. “Privacy and security is a huge issue for us. I am very selective about who I friend.” She posed an interesting question to the 180 in attendance when she mused “how many of you invited someone to coffee this past week? Yet we make 15 friends a day on Facebook.” Certainly reason to pause and wonder where have all the genuine conversations gone?
Leigh answered a question about the guidelines the station sets for their use of social media. Essentially the policy is “Tweet at your own risk.” She talked about how social media has drastically changed the playing field in the time-honored competition of who is the first to scoop a story. In the past, a reporter would get a source, investigate the story, come back quietly, fact check and then broadcast. “Now it is a race to see who gets the first tweet out, and if I beat my competition by 17 seconds, it is cause for celebration!”
How do they promote viewer engagement? In newscasts they often mention their Facebook page as a place for viewers to comment about a story. They also have started running their Twitter handles on the screen as stories are being presented. “Often times those posts lead us to additional stories or more sources for follow-up pieces.”
How do they handle negative comments? They noted the personal connection viewers often make with media personalities. Both make a lot of effort to read and reply to comments, but also do not hesitate to draw boundaries if the comments go too far. “I reply that I saw their post, if a post is marginal I give them a warning, if it happens a third time I block them. If it is about me personally I decide if they will have access to me going forward” said Mills. Wild, on the other hand, noted “I find criticism kind of entertaining. My hair is my #1 complaint. If you are a business you can’t just block negative comments. You take it in, confront it head on and learn from it. We are a public medium, we constantly get questioned why we took an angle to a story, or why we presented a side the way we did. We want to answer the questions and explain our reasoning, and if they have a valid point, we fix it and move on.”
An audience member asked about how they maintain a separate identity for personal and private lives. They said their primary posts are about work. “For awhile, when Twitter was coming onto the scene, everyone was on it, and it was ‘game on’ with no limits to what you posted to represent your business. Now I’ve really stepped back,” said Wild. “I just read a book: Never Check Email First Thing in the Morning and now I try to make sure I have genuine conversations and balance in my personal life.”
As noted earlier, the topic of news releases came up, and they both mentioned the incredibly crowded space of their inbox, with both receiving an average of over 300 emails a day. You’ve heard it before; take the time to create a catchy and interesting subject line. What was the best tip of the day? “If you have an event, don’t pitch the event, pitch the story.” If you can humanize the point of the event, and make it personal, that will catch their attention much more than one more invitation to one of the hundreds of events that happen across Dane county. General press releases blasted to the multitudes are simply not effective.
So where will news come from in the future? Their prediction is that the TV we know today won’t be the same tomorrow, and everything will be interactive. Even now, there is a shift in what is covered by what is clicked on. Carleen said “people say they don’t want crime and shooting stories, but that is what gets opened and commented on the most by far. You all have a say in what is covered, and your vote is expressed by your clicks.”
As usual, the time went by too quickly, and there were many more comments and questions left for pondering. For follow-up, Carleen posted two Tweets that have some good additional resources:
Topic: Law Enforcement Use of Social Media
Location: Madison Marriott West Hotel and Conference Center 1313 John Q Hammons Drive
Middleton, WI 53562
Joel Despain, Madison Police Department
Captain Charles Foulke, Sergeant Troy Hellenbrand & Keith Cleasby, Middleton Police Department
Bill Curtis, UW Madison Police Department