PR in Action: Social Media for Media Relations

Shane Peck
Shane Peck

When news of the impending 48-hour closure of one of only three Mississippi River Bridges in the Greater New Orleans Area was posted on Facebook, one driver summed up the sentiment of most people who use the bridge with a simple, sarcastic “Great.”

The Huey P. Long Bridge is the oldest of three Mississippi River crossings in New Orleans. Commuters in more than 50,000 vehicles per day use the 76-year-old structure to get to work, school or the grocery store.

In November 2011 it was necessary to close the entire bridge for 48-hours for an entire weekend in order to pour concrete on the new lanes. A detailed communications strategy was developed to ensure that motorists were made aware of the impending closure and how they would benefit from the bridge widening through safety, job creation and fewer delays.

Here’s what we learned:

Use social media as part of comprehensive communications strategy: By the time of the closure, people had been following the major media outlets via the project’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. As media outlets and reporters were followed, others started to show up in the Facebook’s “People you may know” feed or Twitter’s “Who to follow” feed.

Multiply your outreach by sharing information multiple times: Once you build relationships with the news media, social media can multiply your outreach. When reporters or outlets follow you through these sites, it provides an opportunity to have more contact with them. For example, a news release would not typically be distributed to the news media multiple times. Through Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites, however, it is perfectly acceptable, expected and even necessary for the same information to be posted numerous times.

Information about the 48-hour closure on the Huey P. Long Bridge in New Orleans was tweeted or retweeted more than 80 times. The closure details were also posted 47 times on the project’s Facebook page.

Here’s a quick rundown of how to leverage your media relations using social media:

> Share information from the news media

> Observe social media etiquette

> Remember non-traditional media sources

> Follow up on traditional contacts

> Provide useful information

> Post information on news media sites

> Share photos, video and links

> Keep in mind that you are always on the record

Shane Peck is a senior communications coordinator with Parsons Brinckerhoff.