How are people getting your news?

In the not-too-forgotten “old days,” people got their news from two places: the local newspaper and TV’s nightly newscasts. Now, we have so many places to look for news! Newspapers, magazines, TV, blogs – it’s almost information overload. Well, actually, according to some studies, we seem to be becoming a society of information overload. And now, more than ever, PR pros have to be on their feet because social media is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to breaking news.

Just recently, I was awakened at 2 a.m. by the sound of sirens from police cars and fire trucks. For 10 to 15 minutes solid, sirens were blaring, and it sounded as though they were stopping not too far from my house. The first thing I did was to visit a local TV station’s website on my iPhone, thinking they would have something up about what’s going on that would cause such a ruckus this early in the morning. Then, coming out of my sleepy fog, I remembered that the real place to get breaking news is Twitter!

I switched over to my Twitter account, and initially, didn’t see any information. (I did learn an interesting tidbit about the fact that more people die each year from donkeys than car accidents – who knew?). But within seconds, up popped the gem I was looking for from a local TV station: “Crews on the scene for two-alarm apartment fire at 10800 Steppington in Dallas.” Bingo! I now knew the reason for the sirens, where the fire was located, thatthe building was unoccupied and eventually got photos from the scene – all within five minutes and without having to get up and turn on the TV. And, I could go back to sleep with my curiosity satiated.

My point is this. If you’re not hooked into Twitter, you should be. And if your client isn’t using Twitter, it probably should be. And if you, PR Pro, are not monitoring what is happening on Twitter, you better be because more and more breaking news is “breaking” on Twitter. So is general chatter – both from reporters and the general public – that could involve a client or give you an opportunity to pitch your client.

While I still very much value the news I get from print and TV outlets, including the wonderful coverage they offer for our many clients, it’s a different type of value. At 2 a.m., I appreciate that I can hop on Twitter and find out what’s happening a few blocks away before the camera crews are on the ground or photographer has made it to the doorstep. During the business day, I appreciate that I can find out that a local news reporter needs a source to discuss how to prevent dog bites (@HSNT1 is the perfect fit!).

This immediacy gives new meaning to breaking news and how it’s reported and when people find out. And if you’re not paying attention, you and your clients could be left behind.

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