Journalism and Public Relations: Where does Social Media Fit?

As social media progresses and evolves, social media, journalism, public relationsmany professionals question its impact on public relations and journalism. Social media has helped each of the fields evolve and plays an essential role in each industry’s success.

Public Relations

Businesses should integrate social media and public relations to increase mentions, awareness and brand authority. It’s not all about creating buzz, it’s about delivering return.  Below are areas where social media can have an impact on public relations:

1. Media Relations: Social media allows businesses to build real relationships with members of the media. Public relations professionals can follow influential bloggers or reporters whose audiences are interested in their industry.

2. Consumer Outreach: Social media allows brands to talk directly to their audiences. As a consumer, I’d much prefer the personal touch of following a brand on Twitter, as opposed to reading about them in press releases. Social media allows brands to establish a real connection with brand enthusiasts.

3. Crisis Communication: Many crises are created or amplified by social media, so social media is the perfect way to respond to those crises. Public relations departments can also monitor what social media users are saying about their brand, so they can take almost immediate action, and nip the negativity in the bud.

4. Speaking Engagements and Events: Companies should let their social media followers know when an employee is speaking at an event or conference. Social media networks like SlideShare also allow speakers to post their presentations so those who were unable to attend, can keep engaged with what was said.

5. More Measurement: Social media analytics can help public relations professionals understand the value of conversations, placements that generate the most engagement and which writers have the strongest influence over readers.

Journalism

More and more people are turning to social media as their main source for news. Sixty percent of people use Facebook as a recurring news source. Social media allows users to get news in almost real time. As a newspaper editor, I’ve seen many “hardcore traditional journalist” dispute social media’s power. They appreciate the nostalgia of seeing newsprint on the page, and think of social media as a fad. While I also appreciate physically turning the pages of a newspaper, citizen journalists are shaping the news now, and the more traditional journalists resist social media, the more irrelevant they become.

Crowdsourcing is easier than ever for journalists using social media. Citizens are taking photos and videos every day, developing an endless archive of sourceable content. Journalists can find tipsters, sources and stories just by logging into their social media accounts.

As valuable as social media can be for journalism, it also has its pitfalls. Social media sometimes allows for the spreading of unchecked facts and site monitors don’t always stay on top of legal issues. After the Boston Marathon bombings occurred, I retweeted a photo that had gone viral of the chaos that ensued. The photo said that the man died as he prepared to propose to his girlfriend. Later I learned that this information was inaccurate. Social media helps stories and photos to go viral, but it’s important, especially as a journalist, that you’re verifying the content you post on social media. The Handbook of Journalism got it right when it said, “Journalism has many unsend buttons, but social media has none.”

Questions to consider:

1. In what way has social media helped your industry evolve?

2. What affect do you see social media having on journalism and public relations in the future?

3. What do you think are the biggest benefits and pitfalls of using social media in your profession?

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