Making connections between TV news and social media

May 3, 2010

News stories need images and audio to place your audience in the moment and invoke emotion.  They are rarely best told through words alone.

For instance, last Oct. 15, viewers around the world tuned in to watch 6-year-old Falcon Heene drift over Colorado in a homemade balloon — or so they thought.

Once the media declared the incident a hoax, the story of Heene — now dubbed “Balloon Boy” — continued to fascinate audiences. Viewers turned to the Internet for the latest conspiracy theories. The story turned into a social media sensation thanks to Facebook and hashtags on Twitter like #balloonboy.  The tweeted links and posts with video took the story to an international level with media coverage in Canada, France and the U.K.

Would the Balloon Boy story have been so newsworthy if TV crews didn’t capture the flight? Probably not.

There is a strong connection between TV news and social media. To execute a strong social media campaign with the potential to go viral, you need to think like a reporter. Maximize social media tools with video that makes an impact.

Incorporate the following guidelines into your next social media campaign to see results: 

  • Hit deadlines. TV newsrooms are deadline-driven. A story that’s news today may not be news tomorrow — or even five minutes from now.  Every story has a shelf  life and it’s imperative to release information when it’s relevant. Don’t expect stale news to gain traction.
  • Be the first.  TV news programs heavily promote stories when they have an exclusive or are the first to break news. If they break it, they own it — meaning that they are now the authority on the subject.  The same goes for social media campaigns. If you’re the first to comment on an issue or crisis via social media, then competitors are left scrambling. Strive to keep information close at hand to prevent story leaks and maintain control. But don’t sacrifice accuracy in order to be first.
  • Establish relationships with reliable sources.  You’re only as good as your last story. If that story includes incorrect information from shady sources, then you compromise your own reputation. Be confident in the information that you share via social media because once it’s released, there is no way to issue a correction or rescind a comment. The beauty and danger of social media is that word can spread quickly, making it practically impossible to correct misinformation.
  • Provide exclusives.  Always try to provide the exclusive. Network morning shows are notorious for making exclusive requests before committing to cover a story. Exclusives give you control of the message and the release of information.

    Owning information is the only way to have control of the message, especially with so many channels competing for attention.  You decide the tone of the story and when it is released — and you become the only source providing information that everyone wants to hear.
  • Don’t tell your story, show it. Before any TV reporter agrees to cover a story, he or she must have a sense for how the story will play out on video. The same is true for a successful social media campaign.

    If you don’t have video or other rich multimedia to supplement your message, then you’ll miss opportunities to reach people on social media channels and blogs.  And, thanks to the Internet’s accelerating speed, demand for video on the Web is growing.  According to The Nielsen Company’s latest  Three Screen Report, released on March 23, online video consumption increased 16 percent in 2009 over 2008.

While social media now provides the immediate information that once made TV the go-to source for breaking news, it’s also a potentially dangerous tool that must be handled responsibly. 

As a PR professional entering these conversations, you must commit to sharing only what is accurate, timely and can be told visually.

Kristyn Wilson
Kristyn Wilson is the director of media relations at MediaSource in Columbus, Ohio. She also worked as a reporter/anchor at WMFD-TV in Mansfield, Ohio. Twitter: @oukristyn.
Email: kwilson at


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