According to the study, about half of all journalists now rely on social media as their main source of information, with as many as 80 percent occasionally foregoing fact checking. Nearly 75 percent are now incorporating usergenerated content, such as videos and tweets, into their reporting, putting the onus on reporters to not only create, but also curate, content for mass consumption.
Though a majority (64 percent) of journalists feel that social media is more superficial than traditional media, the same number believe it has helped to expand their influence, a valuable commodity in today’s highly competitive media landscape.
As a result, journalism is becoming increasingly driven by likes, shares and retweets. No longer does a reporter necessarily have to be the first to break in print or on the air – the majority of people learn about breaking news via social media these days. From a public relations perspective, this means that the old, “traditional” avenues for reaching journalists may no longer be the best.
Gone are the days when the press release was a PR professional’s silver bullet to securing media coverage. Instead, PR pros must adapt and disseminate their news where journalists are looking. For some journalists, this may still be the newswires, industry standard-bearer for disseminating information. But for others, a tweet or Facebook post may go a lot further towards helping secure some coveted column inches in tomorrow’s paper or minutes of coverage during tonight’s evening news broadcast.
The impact of these changes on PR doesn’t end there, though, because not only are reporters increasingly utilizing social media in their reporting, but the general public is also increasingly relying on it as a news source. The latter, in particular, will have broader-reaching long-term implications for those of us charged with winning over people’s hearts and minds, requiring PR pros to rethink how their precious paid media dollars should be allocated. With people increasingly looking to social media and smartphones for their news, the full-page, fourcolor ad isn’t what it used to be, as evidenced by the decline in print advertising revenue and simultaneous growth in online advertising revenue (per the Pew Research Center’s 2014 State of the Media report). With finite resources and seemingly infinite possibilities, PR professionals must carefully consider their target audience demographics in order to determine the most opportune advertising platform(s) to utilize these days.
While some days this may feel overwhelming, it is important to remember that social media is still in its infancy. Only time will tell what kind of long-term role social media will play in mass communications. For now, what is clear is that social media has become a widely accepted communications platform – one that communicators can no longer afford to ignore.
Hope Reilly is a Senior Account Executive at Southwest Strategies. Drawing upon her media and communications background, Reilly leverages both traditional and social media platforms to raise awareness for her clients.