Guest Blogger: Katie Nelson, Social Media + Public Relations Coordinator, Mountain View, California, Police Department
It’s no secret that currently, the journalism industry is struggling in ways that it has never seen before. The effort to transition from print publications to a “digital first” mindset has set some of the biggest and most widely distributed news organizations into a tailspin.
News organizations are looking for ways to not only stay afloat financially, but to proactively publish first in an environment that is focused heavily on breaking news to the masses on social media. As the younger generations of journalists – who also happen to be digital natives – grow in the digital sphere, and as the rise of social media gives voice to anyone who has access to an account to report or comment on news, the question that looms large is: how can you partner with media representatives to reflect fair and accurate reporting from your agency, and even more so, is it worth it?
The short and simple answer is: yes, unequivocally.
Now more than ever, we’ve become increasingly aware of the term “fake news.” This concept is nothing new. Social media has allowed an unprecedented flow of communication between people from all over the world – it’s like a game of telephone for a new age. But inaccuracies and miscommunications can easily be quelled by one simple fact: you become the reporter.
Working side-by-side with news agencies to report on breaking news can only help your organization. You ensure that news is reported correctly, that scanner chatter journalists may use to initially report on incidents is minimal, and that above all, you break the news first to the people who matter most: your residents.
The California Highway Patrol’s Oakland division did an excellent job of updating news organizations as well as the public during the most recent freeway shooting on Interstate 80 on March 9. They tweeted out information regularly, and when another division of the organization was taking over the investigation, they notified journalists where they needed to follow up, rather than leaving them to wonder.
The Prince George’s County Police Department (MD) has not only provided timely updates to breaking news, they often provide follow up opportunities to reporters to interview personnel about breaking news, allowing the news cycle to come full circle. This transparency also allows the public to learn more about an incident than just what was reported on social media, and it gives a glimpse into the people behind the badge – something many want, yet few receive.
Here at the Mountain View Police Department (CA), and at many other agencies in the Bay Area, including the Palo Alto Police Department (CA) and the Fremont Police Department (CA), providing information as soon as possible and regularly updating both the media and the public have become a staple in our communication strategies. How have we done that?Establishing communication on social media is key. Follow your local journalists, and highlight their work. Social media, especially Twitter, is the place reporters will go first to share information, and more often than not, to get it. Become a
digital guide and source for reporters as they scramble towards deadlines. Communicate with them effectively by engaging with them in a social sphere. When they misreport, let them know. Journalists want to get their stories right, and
this allows you to not only be transparent on a digital level, it also shows your followers you are aware and transparent and actively engaged.
Believe it or not, by helping to make journalists’ jobs easier, you are also helping yourselves. Your agency and the press can effectively work together to disseminate information. By being the first to provide thorough information, you build a reliability that culminates into you becoming the primary source of information that your local media affiliates, and more importantly your residents, will go to when seeking information.