The world is getting more dynamic with the advent of social media and the field of journalism too has been greatly influenced by it. Social journalism is one such concept that has evolved over the last few years thanks to social media. It has been changing the way traditional journalism works as an increasing number of journalists have started relying on social media for their work. Few years back though they were skeptical about using social media for work, journalists now have realized its immense potential. While many journalists still feel that social media is undermining their work, there are equal number of others who think that it is just another area of their work.

So what exactly is social journalism?

We all know of ‘open publishing’ platforms like Twitter, Medium, Buzz Feed, don’t we? These platforms are some of the preeminent examples of social journalism. Thus, like Wikipedia puts it, social journalism is a media model consisting of a hybrid of professional journalism, contributor and reader content. Most content in this form of journalism is created and/or screened by professional journalists. Let’s just say, while, everyone has a story to tell, social journalism is a direct response to a revolution taking shape is all the noise around us.

The first such platform at a major media company was FastCompany.com in 2008. Soon after the platform launched, in its first six months it signed up 2,000 bloggers and 50,000 members. Like media analyst Jeremiah Owyang put it, “Social journalism is the integration of a mainstream publication and the social community.”

Social journalism and PR

Sixty-seven percent of journalists log into social media daily to look for news worthy stories. Social media is changing the way media professionals go about with their business. This can prove advantageous to PR professionals, knowing the preferences of the journalists can help PRs in leveraging their work.

In the 2015 Global Social Journalism Study conducted by Cision in 14 countries and among 3000 journalists, the key findings included:

  • Two-thirds of journalists log in daily to use social media
  • 86% of journalists choose email as their preferred method of contact
  • English-speaking journalists engage more via social media than non-English-speaking journalists
  • Experts are important sources of information for 39% of journalists

The above findings give a cue to the PRs that they too should be active on social media and use it as a tool to get the journalists to write about their stories. Knowing the preferences of the journalists will help PRs to pitch their stories right. For example, if a PR person is following a particular journalist on a social media channel, he or she will get to know the kind of stories the journalist generally works on and the kind of issues that will interest him or her. Based on this information, as and when the PR person has something interesting for the journalist to write on, he or she can go reach out. This is just one example in which PRs can leverage social journalism.

The same study also states that more and more journalists are accepting pitches for stories through social media which clearly means that PR professionals stand a good chance of their stories getting picked up and written about if they reach out through one of these channels. The same study also says that there are fewer takers of pitches when made over the phone instead relying on email pitches for the most part of it. It has also been inferred from the study that PR professionals remain the most important to journalists among all sources like company officials, experts, public figures, celebrities and others though the reliance on them have gone down quite a bit thanks to social media.

Journalists will continue to link with PR professionals through email as social media gains at the expense of voice calls and face-to-face interaction which in turn also saves time and effort making the entire professional efficient and documented.

But, there are certain principles that have been laid down by experts that PR professionals should apply to establish credibility and dependability:

  • Find the source that’s close to the story. You can’t be an expert in every field.
  • Stories sell like hot cakes! Social journalism is all about adding stories teamed with powerful news and images.
  • Unearth stories that are investigative in nature.
  • Always…always verify the content.
  • Variety is the spice of life. Diverse topic stories get you more eyeballs. Bring diversity onto the table.
  • User generated content is no different. They are also bound by the same legal and ethical codes as any other content. Give appropriate credit where you should – photos, videos, news tips etc.
  • Make sure your content is optimized for all networks and devices. People consume and share content in various ways. Just make sure that your content is sharable across social networks and is mobile responsive.
  • While social journalism can help brands tell stories, keeping a hold of the PR paid media, content marketing and native advertising is equally crucial.
  • Own up to mistakes you make. Even if the platform is digital or traditional, stories come from And, humans make mistakes. When you publish false or wrong information, own up. This is the best way to learn!
  • Public relations folks need to adapt new business models. While journalism is an old force, PR should also embrace what’s new and better ways to communicate!

Public relations along with social journalism are a remarkable way for brands to develop content that’s ‘newsworthy’ and ‘viral’. This combination also positions PR as a stronger reliable force; all they have to do is follow the principles well.

Having worked with different companies in different capacities for more than ten years, Arpita, has got indepth knowledge in her area of expertise. She has carved a niche for herself in the field of Public Relations and Marketing Communications. Arpita has been instrumental in creating PR campaigns for clients that have brought about instant results in the client’s sales and branding. With her effervescent personality, she also specializes in crisis and image management.