The Canadian Public Relations Society

Changing Media, Evolving PR

In public relations, Social Media on May 26, 2010 at 5:43 am

There was some interesting research published over the long weekend about the news consumption activities of our friends south of the border.  According to the indispensable Pew Research Centre:

Half of Americans say they rely on the people around them to find out at least some of the news they need to know. Some 44% of online news users get news at least a few times a week through emails, automatic updates or posts from social networking sites.

The new report from Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (a.k.a. journalism.org) sought to answer these vexing questions:

What types of news stories do consumers share and discuss the most? What issues do they have less interest in? What is the interplay of the various new media platforms? And how do their agendas compare with that of the mainstream press?

One finding I found particularly interesting is the role that the traditional media has in “seeding” the blogosphere. As illustrated by the graphic below, more than 99 per cent of news stories linked to by blogs originated in traditional broadcast or print media.

The significance of these findings to the evolving practice of PR – even though they are based on US data – should be readily apparent.

The practice of “traditional” media relations continues to play an enormous role in how the actions of your organization, or client, are viewed and discussed on multiple social media platforms. To further complicate things, as the traditional media recognizes and becomes more aware of the growing influence of news delivered through social media, a feedback loop is created where reporters look at social media as a barometer of emerging trends and newsworthy stories. For example, Twitter is now a place for journalists and editors to view the public’s instant reactions to breaking news to help them make editorial decisions about the importance of a story.

Perhaps catching a small glimpse of where this trend is going, a recent segment of National Public Radio’s On The Media (my favorite podcast) visited New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. On the Media interviewed Zoe Fraade-Blanar and she explained her meme tracker, called Current. Zoe’s website explains:

Current shows a snapshot of what the entire internet-using population in America has been thinking for the last 24 hours, in the form of their collective search history.  This information is condensed for readability into memes, living ‘thought organisms’ that act as though they have agency, control, and a selfish motivation.

By visually anthropomorphizing the capricious nature of public attention Current can spotlight these missed opportunities in news coverage.

As news organizations continue to adopt these tools and practices,  thereby gaining a much better understanding of their audience, public relations practitioners will need to keep up.

Andrew McIntyre works in government relations, edits this blog and actively participates in social media.

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