From Public Relations to Readers Relations: Mobile Journalism experiment at NATO summit

by Laurent François

We had the chance with few journalists to be embedded inside L’Express.fr for the NATO summit


@Laurent François, StaubProjekt

Context:

NATO summit was happening in Strasbourg for 2 days. 3 journalists (Gautier Demouveaux, Céline Moncel et Mathieu Galtier) and I decided to cover the event. We have complementary skills (print press, photography, radio etc.)
Eric Mettout suggested to embed us on L’Express.fr to lead a blog called “des apaches à Strasbourg, le sommet de l’OTAN embedded starting from April, 2nd

What are the key learnings?

  1. 3000 journalists were expected in Strasbourg. Most of them were only covering “official” information from NATO. Official meetings, press conferences etc. With such a small latitude, I wonder if it’s still journalism or more institutional communication. Blogging allowed us to cover a wider scope, to get some more freedom…and to change the official storyline
  2. Twitter is the killer tool to live process hot information, moreover when it happens out of conferences centre. We were able to tweet our impressions, to report quickly about the various riots. It allowed us to tell the “true” story of Friday afternoon strike. It’s too long to express, if you speak a little French, go there.
  3. Twitter is a fantastic loop for quick information, but it’s also a way to go deeper. Hashtag #nato or #otan gave the possibilty to complete the diverse tweets. Photos were tweeted, it gave some “feature” to our argument
  4. Our Twitter feed was not only followed by professionals, but also by interested citizens. Not many, but some. Twitter is not a mass media, but affinity. Twitter feeds some communities that are built among specific purposes. Twitter can then influence them. It’s a “2-step” flow.
  5. The blog gave us the possibility to centralize diverse types of contents: sounds, images, videos. Maybe kinda rough. But relevant and flexible enough to give a 360° vision of information. We always say that in communication, you need to use the proper medium to target or feed the proper public. Why not think journalism, not as Public Relations but as Readers Relations?
  6. Comments were great to justify some facts that we were mentioning, to give some more details. It was not about answering opinions, it was to provide more contents to interested readers who needed specific data or information
  7. Blog is maybe more tolerant with the format. Nonetheless, it’s important to be rigorous enough to give the context, and the hierarchy of the information you diffuse. Our videos that were broadcasting the riots could not be just uploaded like that: we needed to give text information, to give the whole storyline
  8. We’ve experienced a true information war. Citizens can live broadcast videos, policemen and army now open YouTube account directly from their cars. As journalists or information makers, we need to “exist” at least on the various social media, to be able to be present in the whole river of news. First to engage a first relationship with our readers, then to give a kind of history (like a browser) and finally to justify our final articles
  9. In the time and space war (if we consider web as a space), online journalists can help in structuring at a “macro-level” the whole river of news
  10. Talking about the tools we’ve used: blackberry, laptops, flipcams must now be inside any journalist pocket. We become kinda hybrid! The more you’re easily connected to internet, the faster you can upload information and get others’
  11. The local newspaper, DNA (Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace), went very deep in this 360° journalism. First because they have a local pool of contacts, extremely useful. Then because they knew how to exist online, in order to RT information to many observers, in English, French or German
  12. Blog is not only interesting during the event. It’s very useful also after: it leaves a digital footprint, contents that can be used to feed people interested in this event, who want to use these information for other studies or reports. So the storyline you create on this blog is not only a facts-storyline, but feeds a more macro one
  13. Word-of-mouth was key to process information. Twitter helped us to focus on specific topics, in order to contact and to be contacted. Social media is a fantastic tool to confront, challenge, confirm offline and online rumors. Phone calls are still the best way to get in touch. But Twitter helps your readers to …help you! It also provides a more authentic and transparent contract between your readers and your medium

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