When I say news collaboration out loud in the newsroom I get looks of confusion, uncertainty, and doubt as the response. When I say news collaboration through social media the looks tell me I’m crazy. Recently I’ve been trying a new tactic.

I’ve found it easier to explain why I chose to work with social media as a journalist by discussing it in marketing terms. I’m not sure why this is. I’ve said it before; rarely do we in the newsroom get in on the marketing plans for the station. We don’t get involved in ad campaigns. Beyond understanding budgets have changed over the years we don’t talk money.

We do know our station identity and the goals we want to achieve with our stories. We know how we’ll try to tell our story differently than the competition. Promotion producers work with news producers to come up with the tease writing for the ads you see throughout the day promoting upcoming stories.

We know we need to reach viewers and find new viewers to turn on our newscasts. This is the business model. When we think of this it often comes down to our individual talents and efforts as a journalist to make those connections. We think end product and leave the rest up to the other departments.

Somehow though, when I talk about connecting our brand to potential viewers by using social media, the looks become more understanding. There’s still doubt of course, but not as much. The doubt that is there is the questioning of whether or not social media users turn on the TV at all for local news.

I don’t have that answer. Through my personal experience of sharing breaking news via Twitter I know some of those following me or the station have turned to CBS4 News instead of other networks. These people have told me so and others have emailed the station claiming the same.

According to Nielsen, 57% of Internet consumers use TV and Internet simultaneously at home. Is this during the news? Maybe not, but Time reports that social media is helping old media.
“Social media have turned the world into one big living room. The future belongs to those who pull up a chair.”
The question becomes how do we use social media to help the news like it helps some Primetime shows?

My current answer is news collaboration. This is why I’ve been doing a series of posts about collaborating with those using social media to review our stories, talk about us, and to be the supplemental resources that we in the newsroom can’t be. The key to this though is to collaborate BEFORE the story is on the air.

It’s at this point in the conversation that I lose some people. Others click with me immediately seeing how social media can be used as a form of advertising. It is word of mouth advertising.

If you’re only willing to talk about a story after it airs, you’ve lost any potential viewers who may have watched if they had found out about it earlier. They didn’t know so they didn’t watch. (When I say talk I mean actual discussion and participation. Posting a headline and link only isn’t talking. Asking a question about a story and letting comments generate but not participating in the conversation, isn’t talking.)

The fear is that if we let people watch our stories first and talk about them that we’re losing editorial control. True. Not only are people able to judge our stories before they air, they can discuss them in any way they’d like. We can’t control the message like we can in a radio or television ad.

The fear is that if we start the conversation early and the competition figures out what we’ve done and will try to get a similar story on the air to compete. Yes, this could happen. But, it already does happen. We see it quite often that a story we’ve been working for days, or even weeks, all of a sudden shows up on a competing newscast. It’s obvious the story hasn’t had nearly as much production as ours. Traditional advertisement, or a tip from someone, has alerted the competition. I admit we’ve done the same. We’ve jumped on a story because we see the competition is going to do it.

Absolutely there are some stories and sources we need to protect before it airs. To this I say Be Smart. If social media involvement early doesn’t work for a story don’t use it. If you force it or try to control it to protect the story, it will become a disaster.

When it’s right though, you can gain so much: brand connection, viewers, sources, resources, and loyalty.