Just when you thought your media relations operation was really humming, firing out those compelling press releases, along comes CNN with I-Reports and CNN Exchange, presenting new challenges … and opportunities.

Recognizing the power behind the Web 2.0 wave of user- and viewer-generated content, CNN has enabled a broad range of “citizen journalist” tools and formats. Any aspiring home reporter can submit video and audio stories (or photo illustrated stories) which are vetted by CNN editors before appearing on the air.

And we're not talking “just online” stories. A timely and good quality citizen-supplied report can find its way onto just about any of CNN's regular broadcast shows. On-air and online reports are showing up on everything from first-person coverage of war in Lebanon to trucks falling into Texas sinkholes.

Just think, one of your members with a souped-up cell phone could get a video story filed and on the air before you get around to finessing your measly press release through the executive review committee! Will they be on message?!

Of course, CNN isn't the only outlet actively soliciting digital stories from their readers and viewers. So whether or not you're worried about your tech-savvy members stealing the thunder from your official media operation, you should be thinking about how best to present your stories to the media going forward. Pretty soon, words alone just won't cut it. Organizations that figure out how to package their words in video and audio formats might find they can capture more attention from media gatekeepers. For most organizations, an occasional VNR (video news release) is a big deal. In the future, they might become the price of entry, even to optimize print coverage of major news (with all mags and papers online, there's no such thing as print-only any more).

Oh, and you might want to begin harvesting your members' creativity — ask them to start sending their prize videos your way!

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