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What Journalists using Social Media could mean for Public Relations

Webtreats Glowing Neon Social Medi IconsI read a CNBC article a few days ago that said Facebook is now the second most visited Web site in the country. It is now only second to Google. If you weren’t already convinced, social media is not just a trend—it’s here to stay. At this point, even journalists are forced to conform. The article I read also mentioned how the new director of BBC Global News told journalists working under him to “get with the social media program or get out.”

As a public relations person I’m definitely on board, but there’s been a lot of discussion around journalists’ use of social media. It is an inevitable part of society that affects us all.

Social media and mobile technology are changing the way we access, view and understand information. We want content to fit with the mediums we use. We want a 140 character tweet that’s easy to engage with via our iPhones.

The new way consumers absorb information greatly affects the role of a journalist, consequently affecting the job of public relations professionals. If all journalists must become part of the social media scene, what does that mean for journalism as we once knew it? Is all news going to be shared via social media sites?

If so, those changes will affect the public relations industry as well. As a public relations person, a majority of the time is spent pitching journalists. Will that still be necessary if everyone, even journalists, live on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter

Why do you need to pitch journalists when you can post a story by yourself?

Social media has enabled anyone to be an author of interesting content. If Average Joe is a blogger with millions of followers, public relations professionals want to build a relationship with Average Joe even though he isn’t a journalist. He’s the person others are interested in. His Web site is the one people visit on a regular basis. That’s where you want your brand to be.

So, if anyone can be an author of interesting content, then what is a journalist’s job? Can a public relations professional eliminate the middle man and be the journalist?

The new director of BBC Global News further commented on social media usage to his journalists: “This isn’t just a kind of fad…I’m afraid you’re not doing your job if you can’t do those things. It’s not discretionary.”

It looks like journalists’ job isn’t what it used to be. And if a journalist’s job has evolved, the same holds true for public relations professionals. Public relations pros are increasingly distributing press releases online, pitching to journalists via Twitter and targeting blogs and bloggers instead of traditional media outlets.

The social media world moves so fast that best practices from a few months ago are already outdated and content from a week ago is old news. We are just beginning to see the changes in traditional journalism, and, as a result, public relations. Eventually something will come along that surpasses the magnitude and capabilities of Twitter, Facebook and every other social media application we see today. So what happens then?

This post was written by Jackie Lampugnano. Jackie is a media relations intern at Walker Sands currently studying Marketing and Public Relations at Loyola University.

Creative Commons License photo credit: webtreats