Kristof – a master communicator

Zoe Kessler | Student Life

The changing media environment has drastically affected how professional communicators operate, for the better. One of my favorite professional communicators – Nicholas Kristof has expertly maneuvered and adapted to the changing landscape.

Merging the old with the new:

Nicholas Kristof is an award winning journalist for the New York Times who has completely transformed the way he reports, and engages with his readers, by strategically integrating social media with traditional media. He’s known for his thoughtful columns, many about issues affecting people living below the poverty line in developing countries. His passion for sharing information, travel, and helping people in need introduced him to a new audience when he released “Half the Sky: From Oppression to Opportunity for Women Worldwide” a novel exposing abuse against women. Using social media and the changing media environment, Kristof started a movement. The book release and coverage would not have been as successful if he was limited to traditional media and promotion, but through his blog, website and twitter he was able to promote the book and the movement; in a way that would not have been possible, even ten years ago. He started conversations that didn’t exist.


Again, breaking new grounds and impressing his audience, Kristof recently reported live from the dramatic events in Egypt – via Facebook and twitter. Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab wrote a post about Kristof’s incredible updates, including the reader’s sentiments:

“…The columnist’s pithy updates have occasioned several hundreds of comments from Facebook users — 575 so far for Kristof’s announcement of his trip, 169 for his arrival update, and 261, combined, for the next two. Many of the them are simple, kind expressions of gratitude and caution — “Please be careful” is perhaps the most common reaction to Kristof’s reporting …” The entire post can be found here.

It’s clear that this allowed Kristof to connect with his readers in a deeply personal way, from so far away.

While these updates allow Kristof to share news quickly and to connect with the readers, it also presents challenges. He is in the spotlight – and if anything (violence, etc) happens, he should expect an overwhelming amount of press and potential criticism. In my opinion, his success in the new media space has transformed his identity from a talented columnist and author, to a public news agent – redefining his role from a journalist to anchor. His success using social media also forces him to stay ahead of the curve and act and think faster than before. He must always rely on his judgment to determine if a tweet, or an update, is appropriate.


The opportunities for professional communicators are endless, but as we’re reading in The Cluetrain Manifesto and Groundswell, the connection they can create with their followers is most important. Whether through crafty tweeting, or showing up at meet-ups, professional communicators are much more accessible and personal than before.

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4 Responses to Kristof – a master communicator

  1. I love this post, Amelia! I’ve been following Nick Kristof’s news stories since 2004, when he frequently wrote about young girls and sex trafficking – a topic I’m very intrigued by. He’s not only an incredible writer, but also a fearless journalist with a deep-seated passion for humanity and the world around us. Kristof is able to make seemingly difficult topics comprehensive and draw connections from previous events to current events (see his recent article on Bahrain and apartheid). He’s mastered the art of social media, relaying news stories from personal point-of-views in 140 characters or less.

    If you’re interested, I’ve been volunteering for an organization (Sanctuary for Families) that will be hosting a forum on sex trafficking next Tuesday, March 8. Nick Kristof will be a panelist at the forum, in addition to many other high-profile speakers.

    • Amelia says:

      That’s fantastic – I’m so glad you’re involved with Sanctuary for Families and I can’t wait to learn more about the organization. Sadly I can’t make it on Tues but would love to hear more!

  2. vonkalweit says:

    Amelia, excellent post on a great journalist. Nicholas Kristof has long been one of my favorite reads. Mostly due to the fact that I appreciate the stories he covers: from child soldiers to the empowerment of women. And as you mentioned, he’s a great example of how a communicator can adapt to the ever-changing media landscape.

    He’s also one of the first persons I saw write about how social media, and media in general, could do a better job at getting involved in changing the world. His concern over how to better his craft in order to help someone else was a thought I really appreciated.

  3. oscartalkspr says:

    Agreed, Amelia. The changing media environment is a good thing for communicators. Kristof is a great example of this. It’s impressive that he was able to increase publicity for his book by leveraging social media. It’s also interesting that he’s created a transnational conversation with his audiences during his trip to Egypt.

    However, I also think that the changing media environment can also bring a few dangers. What if one of his tweets had been interpreted wrong and had gone viral? That wouldn’t have been good for him. While this change is great because it changes the ways in which we hold conversations, I think social media should be used strategically (like Kristof did with his book) and carefully so as to get our point across clearly. Remember, it’s what the audience hears that may make you or break you.

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