Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Social Media Reporters vs. Press


At a large conference made up of my industry peers (Meeting Professionals International’s World Education Congress), I was invited to attend as a social media reporter. There were no obligations; however I was invited to all of the press conferences and a couple of breakfasts for press only. As far as I could tell, the social media reporters were invited to everything that the press was invited to with the exception of one dinner hosted by Disney.

I had never seen the meetings and events industry press in action at one of our large conferences. I knew they typically get free passes to attend all kinds of industry events but my perception was they would attend the conference like anyone else and then write about it for their publication. Since all of the press conferences were scheduled at the same time as education sessions, I found it very difficult to do both. I had also committed to recording a podcast with Meetings Podcast and because all of our schedules were so full, we ended up doing that during education sessions as well. Whether you are press or a social media reporter, it is hard to capture the experience from the viewpoint of an attendee.

What I found interesting was the bigger picture of old media vs. new media. The press structure of submitting articles makes the idea of breaking news a joke. Typically, a conference like this doesn’t have “breaking news” however at this particular event, we did. Although, the way the press conferences were set up, MPI tried to create a sense of urgency for the organizations making announcements. Of the press conferences I attended, there were very few members of the press in attendance. I never saw the ConventionNews Television folks. Even though it is great to get video interviews and their production quality is top notch, it isn’t live.

So, the few of us who showed up are sitting in the same press conference, receiving the same information that allegedly had not been released anywhere else. Someone from an established magazine would diligently take notes, ask good questions and then go about writing an article that I assume would then be edited and published either online or in print form. Whereas, I could have done a blog post on any one of these topics and sent it out through my channels. Granted, I don’t have the same number of subscribers as an established news organization, but tweets sent out with the conference hashtag while the event is happening have a much higher impression rate than tweets sent out at any other time. The key, then, is not to announce something at an event, but to create a strategy around getting your news shared during an event.

During one of the press conferences, I was able to find a news article that had already been written and tweet it out. This was even easier, because I didn’t have to write it! Why re-invent the wheel? I guess the difference between reporting and blogging is that you might expect me to insert my opinions in my blog, whereas, if I am simply reporting the facts, it is a waste of my time to report the same story that has already been written. Today, it matters less where you get your news and matters more who is the first to report it. When sharing content via social media, most people won’t share a story that is already a day old because they assume everyone has already read it.

How does your company / association deal with press at your event? Are you including social media reporters? What does that program look like?