How journalists could scale their individual followers to become ‘influencers’

Of late, every content piece tends to begin with words along the lines of “These are uncertain times”. And they are indeed. In this intense period of social distancing, online media has truly shone through with news, updates, insights and awareness campaigns.

From brands flooding our feeds with messages to stay home, to influencers telling us what to cook, the era of communication could not have been epitomised more perfectly than it is currently.

Through this, there are certain trends & noteworthy shifts in the identity of journalists. This has only become more apparent in the current scenario but is something that has been in the making for a while. While being affiliated to publications and news channels, journalists are also independent entities in their own right, providing information, having discussions and interviews, sharing stories, and growing their online following to ensure that credible news reaches as many people as possible. In the process of building news-driven brands, journalists in their own right are brands themselves. 

This is how best to do it:

Questions and perspectives

According to an extensive study carried out by the Rand Corporation on trends seen in news and media from before the 2000s to the year 2017, a shift was observed from pure fact and statement-based news to opinions, perspectives and advocacy. From TV to newspapers and the digital domain, people today value interpretations and analysis. Journalists with large social media followings often have this in common – they offer deeper insights, backed by the truth, heavy in numbers and reliable sources.

It could be a report of current affairs from a historical perspective or a story in the form of a debate between opposite opinions, these journo-influencers offer news that goes beyond the regular, asking the right questions to dissect a topic. And that’s exactly the kind of approach new and independent journalists need to take for their voices to resonate. Facts definitely matter, but what these facts mean for us as a society, for our environment, for our future – That’s what people are often counting on you for.

Balanced Views

This is a tough one to follow. From the 50 plus known cognitive biases known, we are bound to succumb to a few. Since the task is also to remain credible, taking a stand on a viewpoint while knowing if the viewpoint is skewed is a matter of personal preferences. Views that polarize, create drifts among audiences and / or showcase personal prejudices are often instances that turn a follower away.

Collaborations and simplification

Cision’s 2017 Global Social Journalism Study states that an overwhelming 75% of journalists find social media necessary for their work. With Twitter being the most influential platform used globally for journalism according to a 2019 Ogilvy study, we all know where the breaking news is – It’s just about addressing them correctly. But it’s not solely about the audience. Journalist influencers very often also show solidarity with others from the media fraternity – Be it writers or photographers. A community is built around the common objective of providing credible news, and this community stands together. 

This is actually something often discussed in media and PR circles – that mutual respect for each other and actively seeking out each other’s insights is a show of true integrity and a means to productive collaboration.

Another aspect that we PR professionals are also quite accustomed to is simplification. This by no means over-simplification – It means the close understanding of an audience that needs information and insights in understandable language, devoid of jargon and airs. News is not to be held in lofty regard, it is to be disseminated to the masses, to the public, to us all. Backing news with hard numbers, explaining terminology, creating bite-sized content, speaking conversationally – These are all ways to engage with your audience in a way that shows them respect. After all, who else is the news and awareness for?

So, whether you are a PR professional, a blogger interested in the truth, or just someone who finds it important to be aware of current affairs – when you look at that Instagram or Twitter account of a journalist making an impact both qualitatively and quantitatively, remember, that could be you.

Asif Upadhye is director & 'Dark Knight' at SPRD.

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