• Thomas E. Mitchell, Jr.

A TCM Communications Case Study: Using social media to right wrongs

(Image source: March 19, 2017 LinkedIn article by Toby Marshall)

What originated as a LinkedIn article by Clarene Mitchell, the managing partner of TCM Communications, quickly became the catalyst for an online campaign to right a wrong. Specifically, Milwaukee Magazine made a gross error in its September 2017 issue. An online backlash ensued against the publication after the article was published and picked up by a digital news outlet, Milwaukee Independent. The article was later picked up by other publications (Milwaukee Record and Milwaukee Community Journal), featured as a TV news segment (TMJ 4) and was a topic on two radio shows (WNOV and WMSE).

The article (Once again, marketing optics lack cultural sensitivity) was based on Milwaukee Magazine inappropriately using a mural of a young Black man in prison orange as a backdrop for a fashion photo. The magazine subsequently published an apology and the editor appeared on a local radio talk show to speak to the issue.

Watching Clarene consistently pushing the story out on multiple social media platforms was like watching a master painter paint a masterpiece step-by-step. She didn’t just write the article and let it sit. She instead tenaciously worked every available tool in her social media toolbox to expand the reach of the article.

The day following her posting of the article, she went to the location of the mural and did ‘live’ videos on various social media platforms. This video was later posted on YouTube. Her engagement with the public prompted many to write letters to the editor condemning the publication for its misuse of the mural.

With each action she took, she propelled the story to the next level, making it a local hot topic. Although I wasn’t fully aware of the power this approach to journalism had, it was remarkable watching her get the attention of other media entities, both digital and traditional. This helped me understand and appreciate more how social media can be an effective means in reshaping how news is reported.

Even I, still new to social media, partnered with Clarene to push the story out amongst my network. My involvement also included joining her on a radio talk show to discuss the photo. She and I also did ‘live’ videos to further discuss the issue and respond to questions.

It was interesting watching Clarene manage all the various online activity. Her responding to questions and comments on Facebook newsfeeds and in groups became a full time job. This validated for me the specialization of this unique area of communications and how time consuming it can be.

Generally speaking, the typical shelf life for social media posts varies depending upon the platform you use, though the timeframe is relatively short. For instance, posts on Twitter are 24-30 minutes, Facebook are five hours, and 24 hours on LinkedIn. The Milwaukee Magazine article was originally published on LinkedIn on August 31, 2017. It still gained readers two weeks after it was published and generated conversations that continue on other platforms.

It seems that digital was born for activist journalism. The process of getting out quality content quickly to mass audiences helps to advance issues and galvanize support.

TCM used its journalism and social media acumen to bring attention to an important issue: how a traditional media entity had poor marketing judgement based on their lack of staff diversity. This same tenacity we at TCM used on this issue can be utilized to effectively get any story told.

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