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The Media Revolution is ‘Iterative’ and Social: Experts Share How Not to Get Left Behind

From Bar Leader, a publication of the American Bar Association:

“You’re all living in a media revolution,” said Thom Fladung, vice president of Hennes Communications. “And you don’t even know it.”

Offering a window onto one aspect of that revolution, Bruce Hennes, president of the same crisis communications firm, said, “I don’t think there’s a reporter in the country who’s not using Twitter to crowdsource what people are thinking about.”

Speaking at this year’s Midyear Meeting of the National Association of Bar ExecutivesNational Conference of Bar Presidents, and National Conference of Bar Foundations, Hennes and Fladung helped attendees understand how they should navigate in a world where, as Fladung put it, “The media has changed more in 10 years than in the past 100.”

What’s new? Iterative reporting

It used to be that a news article was a single item, published once, Fladung said, and reporters were expected to get every important source into the story, even if it meant trying to reach them six different ways before giving up.

Because articles can, and are, updated easily online, the typical news story is now given out “piece by piece, over time,” Fladung said, noting that this is called “iterative reporting.”

As a source, Fladung added, this means you are no longer indispensable—so you can’t make yourself difficult to reach, or you’ll miss the chance to put your association in its best light (whether the story is good news for you, or bad news).

“If you don’t pick up the phone, you’re not in the story,” he said, noting that Google’s analytics give priority to whichever news outlet broke a story first—which has put pressure on reporters to work faster than ever, and not to spend too much time chasing down sources.

While you could still make it into an update to the story, Fladung added, that’s not really where you want to be. “When is the last time you went back on your phone to see if there’s been an update to something you read?” he asked, noting that 60 percent of all news content is now consumed via smart phone.

What if you really can’t make the reporter’s deadline, or you find out after the fact about a story your bar should have been part of? See if the reporter will do a whole new story with a new headline, Fladung suggested—again, so you can avoid being hidden away in an update.

Both Fladung and Hennes confirmed to skeptical audience members that reporters really are receptive to this idea, as long as you honestly do have a lot of new facts to offer. Hennes noted that quite often, reporters are rewarded—including in pay—for the number of separate articles they publish.

Just how important is social media?

So important, Hennes said, that maintaining some kind of presence there is no longer optional; if you really don’t want to manage an account yourself, then he advised that you hire someone to do it for you.

Why? Your members are there, and so are reporters—and if you or your bar association are being discussed, whether positively or negatively, you need to know about it so you can respond.

Sometimes, Fladung added, reporters will use comments on Facebook and Twitter as akin to interviews—and will quote them. That’s all the more reason, he said, to be present on social media: so you’ll know what’s being said about you there, before you see it in a news article.

The lines between social media and traditional media have blurred significantly in recent years, Fladung noted. Particularly if the account is “verified” (meaning the person has taken extra steps to authenticate that they are who they say they are), others will trust the information and cause it to go viral or to be picked up by a news wire service.

Twitter also functions independently as a news outlet, Fladung added, often being the first place where people see what turns out to be very important information. For example, he said, the first anyone outside of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando heard about the mass shooting there last year was when someone tweeted about it from the club’s restroom. When the Orlando police apprehended the shooter, they didn’t write a press release or call a reporter; instead, Fladung said, “The biggest news in its history was shared on Twitter.”

The traditional news outlets that have survived have learned how to use social media to their advantage, Fladung said, noting that “Facebook now drives about 30 percent of the traffic that comes into newspapers.” In other words, a person sees a post on Facebook and clicks on the article, rather than going directly to the newspaper’s website and accessing the article from there.

Years ago, Fladung said, a study found that one of the top three drivers of whether a person finds a piece of information noteworthy and worth acting on is whether a friend tells the person about it. “Facebook has taken that concept and supersized it,” he added.

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