I first started working as a journalist in 1976 in Calgary. I’d been working in radio for a few years, but when I moved to CHQR Calgary in 1976, I became a full-on news reporter, working ‘the street’.
The tools of the my trade were my 1965 Mustang with a giant Motorola 2-way radio strapped under the dash, a pager, a Sony cassette recorder and a bag full of spare batteries.
Stories were my business – and on a good day I’d cover a couple of press conferences, stop by city hall or the police department (the cop shop), and I’d pick up one or two more stories by doing the rounds.
If the newsroom got hold of a good story they needed me to cover, they’d page me. My beeper would go off and I’d have to find a pay phone to call back to the station. I’d write my stories long hand on a steno pad, or if I was close to city hall, would pop in there where we had a desk and a typewriter I could use.
Filing stories meant cracking open a phone headset, and with 2 alligator clips, ‘patching in’ my cassette deck audio output to the phone wiring so I could feed clips back to the station. Then I’d file my story over the phone while they recorded it at the other end.
It’s no surprise that in those days, we didn’t spend a lot of time talking about the technology of delivering the story. We spent all of our time talking about ‘the story’ itself.
Flash forward to 2010.
I now have a huge collection of digital tools, both software and hardware, that make my 1976 toolset look ridiculously archaic.
These days, it seems to me we’re always talking about the technology.
And why not, it’s exciting.
Particularly in the social networking sphere where things are developing fast and furious. But it’s easy to get lost in the conversation about the technology, and forget the point. What are you there to talk about? What stories are we actually going to tell with all these new tools?
One of the first things I tell clients is that for business, a social media strategy is actually a content strategy. It’s about opening up and telling the stories about your product, your company, and your employees – really about anything that someone might be interested in learning about. Interestingly, often this kind of content isn’t found on the company’s own web site.
The second thing I tell clients?
Stories talk back. Social media is about engagement. Sure it’s ok to tell people about your products of what you’ve got on sale, but you also have to engage in the conversation. The analogy I use is that it’s like the customer service desk, not the bulletin board.
I encourage my clients to get involved with social media – but – with a couple of key pieces in place. First, we spend some time thinking and planning the kind of stories they intend to share. Second, that they understand that social media isn’t ‘set and forget’; they need to be engaged in a meaningful conversation in order for it to provide meaningful results.
I wouldn’t for a minute go back to the dark ages of 1976. I love my digital studio and suite of distribution tools. I love knowing there’s something new coming at any moment.
I would, however, encourage you to remember that without ‘the story’ none of it means very much.
And I would take the Mustang back.
thanks to kk+ for the 2010 photo!