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Facebook Wants To Friend the Press

Facebook gets close coverage from the media, and often the stories are critical and unflattering. What to do? Follow that old saying about keeping your friends close and enemies closer. Facebook is looking for a full-time manager for its journalist program.

Beyond what you might normally expect from a PR campaign, this appears to be an attempt to influence journalists at a number of levels, including through marketing and partnership campaigns, setting "best practices" for journalists, developing relationships with industry and academic institutions, and identifying products and partnerships for and with journalists.

It's not unheard of for companies to try influencing how the press perceives and reports on them. More unusual is an attempt to become part of the journalistic process itself. LinkedIn has focused on getting journalists to use the service. At one time, LinkedIn offered free one-year paid accounts. Now it has resources for the press as well as an official LinkedIn group for journalists.

But from the job description for the journalist program management position, Facebook seems to have a bigger agenda:

The Journalist Program Manager will utilize both partnership and program management skills to help journalists understand the value of using Facebook, get started, and use it effectively over time. This is a full-time position based in New York on the Marketing team, and will work closely with the Media Partnerships team.
The program is part of Facebook's communications and public policy group. The listed responsibilities give some additional insight into what the company plans.
  • Lead development of strategic programs and projects which help journalists use Facebook progressively as a reporting and distribution tool.
  • Identify and document best practices for journalists, including creating content and case studies.
  • Speak at industry conferences and partner events related to journalism and social media.
  • Counsel individual journalists on how to use Facebook.
  • Provide hands on leadership of cross-functional projects to engage journalists in conjunction with the partnership and marketing teams.
  • Serve as an advocate for journalists within Facebook, and identify new product and partnership opportunities.
  • Develop relationships with key industry and academic institutions with journalism programs.
Getting journalists to think of and use Facebook as a tool has some potential pay-offs for the company:
  • It is more difficult to be critical of something you are involved with.
  • More use of Facebook might spark ideas for positive stories that would help improve the company's PR.
  • Getting the media to think of Facebook as a working tool might help cut some of the attention that Twitter gets on that front.
As Facebook seeks someone with at least five years of journalism experience for the position, it clearly wants someone who understands the media business and who would bring some perceived credibility.


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