On ego searching, and why it matters

February 21, 2008

Great post last week from Growing Your News Website about journalists responding to conversations that involve them, even when these conversations are taking place not on the MSM dot-com that employs them.

Great example: Erie Media-Go-Round mentions the Erie Times-News probably every other day. But ETN reporters never join the conversation. Sure, in this particular example the “conversation” might be a little, well, woolly–but ignoring commenters won’t make them go away. You know how someone will be swearing at the computerized IVR (“Say ‘billing’ if you have a question about your bill. Did you say ‘B&DSYH$#@?’ Say ‘yes’ to proceed”) and then suddenly become mollified when they hear a real person on the line? Comments on blogs work a little like that, too. Rail all you want at the Erie reporter because he’s not going to read this!…Then you totally freak them out by posting a polite (yet non-troll-feeding) response, and then maybe, in a perfect world, they’ll realize that you aren’t a pigheaded chumswilling a**hole and that maybe your words have some merit to them.

Anyway.

What Steve has to say is that basically it’s important to respond outside of your own news website–to refute incorrect information, to say “thanks” to someone who wrote something nice about you, to show you care about your community, and to build your brand. (Gloomy aside: Most newspapers are still struggling, for myriad reasons, to get reporters to respond to comments on THEIR OWN sites, so this idea may still be in “pipe dream” stages.) And what I didn’t know is that it’s incredibly easy to find out where these conversations are happening.

Every journalist should be using “ego trackers,” which are simply accounts that track articles and blog items that mention your name. I use Google Alerts and have it track my name; it delivers both news articles and blog items where I show up. There are plenty of websites that you can search on your name (Google Blogsearch, Technorati, Google News, Topix, etc.).

I just set up an alert for myself and was pleasantly surprised to find that an article I was sure was killed was actually live at Common Ground. How’s that for instant gratification? Plus, even though nobody’s written anything nasty about me yet, I’ll be prepared when it happens.

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