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.


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?


12 thoughts on “Journalism and Public Relations: Where does Social Media Fit?

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  3. Great post Lauren! I work for a healthcare system and I think social media has benefitted our organization tremendously. Our marketing focus has shifted from straight image campaigns and messaging to more about keeping people healthy and helping them manage chronic health conditions. Social media has provided an outlet for wellness tips, additional resources, and platforms for Q&A with patients and potential patients. It’s also helped us develop more of a “personality” if that makes sense. I think more people see us as a community resource now instead of just the “big, bad hospital system” now. Social media has helped us accomplish this and I believe is helping us move in the right direction.

    I do think businesses and brands need to make sure they are fully committed to social media before jumping in. Social media does a brand no good if they don’t have goals and strategic plans. Like any marketing outlet, social media needs to be used thoughtfully and accurately.

  4. Hey Lauren,

    Nice post! I think you hit on a lot of great points about the future of PR and journalism. For the future of journalism, I foresee a lot of on the ground reporters scattered all across the country. The local news station in Columbus has storm trackers that sign up with the news station. They send reports from across the state when there is a weather event. I think publications could use this same technique to enlist and train “reporters” all across the country. It wouldn’t be a full time position, but if something were to happen they could relay trusted information to the publication. It’s just a thought but if works for weather, why can’t it work for breaking news?

    • Hey Sean,

      Thanks! Good point about reporters across the country. It definitely seems like a reasonable transition, especially considering many major tv networks are already doing this.

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  6. You said “What do you think are the biggest benefits and pitfalls of using social media in your profession?”

    I think a big pitfall in any profession when using social media is posting confidential information. Whether it’s patient information in the healthcare industry or it’s student information in academics, the posting of confidential is not only a public relations nightmare, it’s also a legal issue.

    • You’re right. Company’s should make sure there are some sort of guidelines for those individuals responsible for posting on social media. If there aren’t any guidelines and the person doesn’t really understand the company’s use of social media, companies can get into a lot of trouble.

  7. Social media has become huge for us in creating connections and engagement with our fanbase. More than then, we’re developed a trust that was just not possible before with phone calls and email alone. I use the comments, likes and shares as a way to measure how we’re doing our fans.

    As social media continues to be ingrained with our culture, I think that journalism and PR will use social as an outlet for their message. PR will react to journalism’s message at times and at other times, journalism will react to PR’s message. They’ll create a relationship where they work together and against each other.

    The toughest part of social media, in any profession really, is leaving yourself vulnerable to criticism. I wish I could tell you that I could handle it and see through all of it, but I cannot. I am not that good, and I take a lot of it to heart. I always listen to the customer, but at the end of the day, my stores are my passion, and taking care of them and the customer is a tough balance. When we fail a customer, we’ve now publicly failed. Finding a way to fix that is key.

    • Great points. Social media definitely ensures that businesses are meeting consumer demands. As tricky as that might be for businesses, it’s a positive outcome for consumers because it holds businesses accountable.

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