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Build relationships with platform companies

Even publishers with the most social media-savvy newsrooms can feel at a disadvantage when Facebook rolls out a new product. A common complaint we heard from publishers at all levels is that it’s difficult to build partnerships with social media platforms. They seem to be holding all the cards. Even large publishers often feel in the dark during meetings with large platform companies.

The challenge is only greater for small, regional, and even mid-sized publishers. They they often feel at a disadvantage in negotiating with platform partners when compared to big players like CNN, BuzzFeed or ESPN.

(Social media platforms) seem to be holding all the cards.

Publishers who aren’t media partners with Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter, aren’t highlighted prominently on these platforms, don’t receive a heads up about new products and never have a direct line to support at these companies.

That said, there are a few ways to establish and grow a closer relationship with established and emerging platforms. Several in newsrooms who worked closely with partners said it comes down to basic relationship management.

Jeff Petriello, formerly director of creative development at Mashable, says that Mashable has regular touch-base meetings with platform representatives. The Huffington Post checks in regularly with its rep at Facebook. At Refinery29, the video team holds frequent calls with Facebook to review what’s working and what isn’t on its pages.

So, first establish a relationship with a designated representative. If possible, make that relationship face to face. Invite them to lunch or to visit your newsroom. Proactively share data and be open about about the challenges publishers face. Consider inviting them into editorial meetings. Providing these types of insights can help platforms tailor their products to media company needs.

If inviting platform representatives in feels too much, ask to be invited to events that they’re organizing. Attend talks and meetups where platform representatives will be present and make an effort to thoughtfully engage.

Reaching out online can be a valuable tactic for regional publishers who aren’t in the big cities where platform companies have offices.

Reaching out online can be a valuable tactic for regional publishers who aren’t in the big cities where platform companies have offices. Many staff at different platforms actively engage on Twitter. If you can’t make it to New York for a Facebook event, ask for a livestream or follow along and participate via hashtag.

Annemarie Dooling, director of programming at Racked, suggests taking a “middle-up approach” rather than top-down networking. “Get to know their representatives at mid-level, who have more time for relationship building, and go to them,” she suggests. “They are usually more than happy to give tours of their offices and facilities. Let them know about what you cover and all tentpoles and larger beats and projects forthcoming. For example, if your big event is elections, don’t wait until October to let them know you have plans.”

“Listen to their advice, particularly on new products. When they mention something new, like a tool or product, it’s usually because it’s important to their bosses and larger platform goals, so listening and trying it out can be to your benefit,” she adds. “You could end up in a beta program, or in their best practices. And finally, remember that these are people. While it may sound obvious, if you are building a relationship, build it beyond the scope of your work. Ask how their families are, or the marathon they just ran, or ask for cooking tips if they post a food video. Not only is it a genuine practice, but people in tech, particularly the best and most helpful people, change jobs often and you’ll be able to carry that relationship to the next position.”

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