AP updates social media guidelines: 5 takeaways for PR pros

From friending and following to interacting with @ tweets, here are the things PR pros should know about the new guidelines.

As part of its ongoing effort to stay relevant in an ever-diluting media landscape, the Associated Press has released an updated version of its social media guidelines.

The guidelines cover a range of topics, from disclosure to friending and following. It’s worth a read. In the meantime, here are three useful takeaways from the guide for PR pros:

1. AP journalists should be all over social media. Chief among the additions is AP’s urging that journalists connect through social channels:

“All AP journalists are encouraged to have accounts on social networking sites. These sites are now an integral part of everyday life for millions of people around the world. They have become an essential tool for AP reporters to gather news and share links to our published work. We recommend having one account per network that you use both personally and professionally.”

Many PR professionals have found success building relationships with reporters on Twitter. At the very least they’ve picked up valuable intelligence from reporters’ Twitter account in order to craft a better pitch.

(For a refresher, read this PR Daily story on how to cultivate relationships with reporters on Twitter.)

The latest update to the AP’s social media guidelines means there will be more reporters on social media sites for you to follow and maybe even friend.

2. Don’t expect AP reporters to comment on your blog posts. If a reporter were to “friend” you on Facebook, he or she has some rules to follow: “If we do friend or ‘like,’ we should avoid interacting with newsmakers on their public pages–for instance, commenting on their posts.”

3. There’s an outline for making corrections on Twitter. AP offers advice for corrections to Twitter posts:

“Erroneous tweets or other social media posts need to be corrected as quickly and transparently as errors in any other AP service. This applies to AP-related tweets or posts on personal accounts as well. The thing to do is to tweet or post that we made a mistake and explain exactly what was wrong.”

Good to know in case a reporter tweets something erroneous about your company or client—or if you tweet something that’s incorrect.

4. AP reporters can friend newsmakers; AP bosses can’t friend those beneath them. From the section on friending/following sources:

“It is acceptable to extend and accept Facebook friend requests from sources if necessary for reporting purposes. However, friending and “liking” political candidates or causes may create a perception among people unfamiliar with the protocol of social networks that AP staffers are advocates. Therefore, staffers should avoid friending and liking unless they have a true reporting reason for it.

“To keep track of tweets by newsmakers, we recommend using a Twitter list, which allows you to receive postings without joining the person’s official list of followers.

“AP managers should not issue friend requests to subordinates. It’s fine if employees want to initiate the friend process with their bosses.”

Nothing about whether either group should friend PR professionals.

5. AP staffers are encouraged to reply to @ tweets. If a reader spots an error or possible error and tweets about it, the reporter should respond, the guidelines state. It also says: “If someone offers a businesslike criticism of a story or image but has their facts wrong, it’s good to reply, time permitting, to clarify the facts.” However, reporters should avoid a “Twitter war” (our term, not theirs).


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