The Changing Definition of Public Relations and Journalism

Our profession is intrinsically tied to journalism. As we write about social media and how it is revolutionizing public relations, it is important to recognize that it influences journalism as well. For better or for worse, the very definition of a journalist is beginning to change in our society. A changed world of journalism will inherently influence public relations as well. How do you think public relations is influenced by this changing definition of journalism?

8 thoughts on “The Changing Definition of Public Relations and Journalism

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      I think because of the intrinsic relationship between PR & journalism the definition of of PR is bound to morph into something new right alongside it’s journalistic counterpart. Because of the decline in “old media” and the rapid advancement of Web 2.0 technologies, social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, & LinkedIn journalists are honing their craft to adapt to these technologies. As story tellers in the public relations field we have to adapt as well or risk falling behind the curve. If we want to reach out and tell our clients story through media outlets we must not only understand our audience but the vehicles they use to get news and information as well. This understanding of our audiences characteristics, their methods of getting news and other information, and the advancing technological landscape for delivering this information is what will change the definition of public relations from what it used to be in the days of Edward Bernays to something new for our generation. Of course all of this change brings with it challenges in appealing to the widest demographic possible while not alienating people who are not up-to-par with Web 2.0 etc.

      Overall, it is a fascinating time to be in the field of public relations as it builds on tried and true practices and incorporates new ones into a new and distinct hybrid creation of story telling. Because after all what is public relations at it’s heart but the telling of unique stories?

      Respectfully submitted,

      Timothy J. McMahon
      Public Relations Student Society of America
      Central Washington University chapter
      Chapter President

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      I was in a PR class last week, and we had a guest speaker come in. She talked about a story a journalist wrote about her organization, and in the story, instead of quoting someone from the organization, they used a quote from the newspaper’s discussion boards as a “source.” She was pretty upset, as you can imagine.

      It’s a new world. As social media blur the lines of what defines an “expert,” we will probably struggle more to control the message being disseminated about our organizations.

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      I think that what becomes increasingly important in academia is to teach our public relations students how to find “expert” or “credible sources. There is a growing trend for today’s student to rely heavily on the Internet for news, information, and even scholarly research material but what becomes problematic is when the student is unable to discern what is credible and what is fluff or just someone’s opinion.

      As organizations, there must be a concerted effort to communicate with the media, even more so, in order to insure that the information being disseminated is factual and current.

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      Actually, the future is much brighter for PR now due to journalism losing its luster and power to social media. I think PR has the chance to introduce a new era of transparency without the intervention of big journalism. I am not sure people trust the news media as much as they used to anyway, so now is the time for PR to truly practice excellence. It might be much more democratic for “everyone” to be a journalist, because the corporate media never had an exclusive on the truth in the first place. The “penny press” was not so bad. The challenge for PR will be to let the “dominant coalitions” in organizations know that every move they make must be legitimate, because they can be challenged by millions of people. Public Relations can be the profession that helps people understand their world, but it must do so by forcing powerful leaders to invite debate rather than stifle it. The future is yours.
      -Prof. Kyle F. Reinson
      St. John Fisher College

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      The changing definition of journalism offers an exciting (and slightly stressful) opportunity for public relations professionals. Like Professor Reinson said, PR now has the chance to really practice our excellence. As social media blurs the lines of credibility, it’s up to public relations professionals to legitimize blog posts, discussion boards and any other comments potentially considered journalism and simply expose the truth. This change will test our communication and research abilities and allow PR professionals to prove our committment to excellence and honesty. At the same time, the changing of journalism adds numerous outlets to expose messages. Since public relations and journalism are so tightly linked, it will be up to PR professionals to bridge the communication gap and keep everyone rightfully informed.

      Jeana Harrington
      Otterbein College (Ohio)

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      As we are all aware, nothing is ever constant in society. Why would we expect a profession as old as journalism to stay the same? Journalism is changing due to PR 2.0 and the influence of social media. While PR 2.0 isn’t really anything new for most college students, veteran journalists are having a problem adjusting to this idea. With the “new version” of public relations, we as practitioners are finding paths to communicate with our target audiences in a more effective and meaningful way. This, in turn, does not always mean we will use journalists as an outlet. Instead, PR practitioners are turning to social media sites and resources, such as blogs, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, to connect with their audiences.

      While I was conducting research last night about social media, I found these interesting facts from the Buyer Group, a public relations and branding agency in Florida:

      – Twenty-five percent of journalists report regularly reading five or more blogs to research desired topics, and nearly 70 percent follow a blog regularly.
      – More than a quarter (28 percent) of journalists visit a social media or networking sites at least once a week, while more than 44 percent visit at least once a month.

      This data proves that social media is becoming a greater influence and slowly replacing journalists. The facts also demonstrate PR practitioners are cutting the middle men out of the communication pathway by going straight to social networking sites. With all of this occurring, journalism is going to have to change in terms of the definition to stay alive.

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      Public relations will be influenced by the changing role of journalism. In response to Katalyn Yenne, journalism is already changing by definition. The research suggests not that journalism is a dying breed, but that they are slowly recoginizing the importance of social media. Credible journalism will become more prevalent online overtime ensuring the relaitonship with public relations professionals is necessary. We need to recognize that journalism will always play a vital role in communicating with our audiences.

      According to Lloyd Salmons, first chairman of the Internet Advertising Bureau social media council, “Social media isn’t just about big networks like Facebook and MySpace, it’s about brands having conversations.” Social media creates an opportunity not available through traditional media outlets. It allows organizations to receive immediate feedback from consumers. It should be seen as an opportunity to create successful word of mouth campaigns that spread quickly due to social media sites, tools and services.

      Social media also offers journalists the same opportunities to receive feedback. It allows journalists to engage readers in more extended conversations. Journalists offer guidance to consumers by filtering, selecting and asking questions. Social media will ensure they understand their audience more completely than ever before. Journalists will be able to disseminate all of the information on the web and put it into context for people who don’t have the time to search for answers. Since anyone can create a webpage to offer information, journalists can offer a certain amount of credibility. With the creation of all the different social media sites, a search for credible, reliable information will begin. According to Caterina Fake, vice president of Flickr, “Going forward, trust (will be) the thing that makes the Internet possible. Reputation management will be more and more important.” The need for credible resources will create a place for journalism.

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      Woinderful, but konwn =)

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