Insights for Media Professionals

Written by: Andy Muthoni, Capitol Pathways – Tunheim

In an era defined by the relentless evolution of media landscapes and the ever-expanding realm of communication strategies, the intersection of journalism and strategic communications has emerged as a focal point of inquiry during my Capitol Pathways internship.

Following insightful discussions with a local print reporter and local TV investigative reporter, I am drawn to unraveling the intricate relationship between journalism and its alignment with the principles of public relations (PR) and strategic communications.

As the boundaries between these domains blur and synergies abound, I am compelled to delve deeper into how the ethos of journalism intertwines with the strategic imperatives of PR, shaping narratives, fostering engagement, and navigating the complex terrain of modern communication.

The Changing Journalism Landscape

The journalism landscape is undergoing a seismic shift, driven by technological advancements, changing consumer habits, and the rise of digital media. According to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford, a significant 75% of the global population now turns to social media platforms such as X (Twitter), YouTube, and Meta (which owns Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp) for accessing news and information. This statistic underscores the profound shift in media consumption habits, highlighting the increasing reliance on social media as a primary source of news dissemination.

Further research shows that in today’s multimedia landscape, versatility is key. Journalists must be adept at leveraging various media, including writing, video, audio, and social media, to effectively communicate their stories.

According to World Economic Forum, understanding digital publishing has become an essential skill for journalists, as the phone serves as their newsroom and social media platforms act as the primary distribution channels for news.

The ability to seamlessly transition between different formats allows journalists to adapt to the ever-changing demands of the industry and remain competitive in a crowded media landscape.

Politics on Social Media

In light of concerns over the spread of misinformation and political polarization, Facebook opted to de-prioritize politics-related articles in its algorithm in March 2021, prompting discontent among journalists who rely on the platform for audience engagement. This decision has led to a notable decline in Facebook referrals to news links, posing challenges for media outlets seeking to reach their audiences effectively.

Data from Chartbeat and Similarweb reveals a significant decline in Facebook referral traffic for global publishers, dropping from 27 percent to 11 percent of page views between January 2018 and April 2023.

Small publishers experienced a drastic decrease, with Facebook referral traffic plummeting to just two percent of its initial volume, while larger publishers saw declines of 24 percent and 46 percent for the largest and medium-sized outlets, respectively.

Dynamic Digital Media Platforms

In response, Facebook has introduced Threads, a new feature reminiscent of Twitter, which has become the focal point for political discussions on the platform. These developments, as Tunheim’s Director of Integrated Digital & Social Media David Erickson shared, underscore the dynamic nature of digital media platforms and the need for journalists and PR professionals to adapt their strategies accordingly, to navigate this evolving landscape.

Data analytics has created opportunities and challenges for journalists and the organizations that employ them. Analytics are a powerful tool for journalists, allowing them to gain insights into audience behavior and preferences. By analyzing metrics such as page views, engagement rates, and demographic data, journalists can better understand their audience and tailor content to meet their needs.

Storytelling Captures Audiences

Much like journalists, PR practitioners must unearth stories that transcend the mundane and evoke profound emotions. In the intricate tapestry of PR, identifying narratives that captivate and resonate with the audience is paramount.

By delving deep into societal issues or aligning narratives with organizational objectives, PR professionals can forge connections that transcend the superficial and foster lasting engagement.

Integrity and Credibility are Critical

Navigating the delicate terrain of sensitive information demands finesse and integrity. Just as journalists safeguard their sources and uphold confidentiality, PR professionals must exercise utmost discretion when handling proprietary data, crisis management strategies, or sensitive organizational information. By establishing and adhering to rigorous protocols and ethical standards, PR practitioners can preserve trust and credibility in an era fraught with misinformation and mistrust.

Credibility forms the bedrock of effective communication in both journalism and PR. Through meticulous research, rigorous fact-checking, and unwavering adherence to ethical principles, investigative journalists and PR professionals alike cultivate a reputation for accuracy and reliability.

By upholding transparency, presenting information truthfully, and maintaining consistency in messaging, PR practitioners cement their credibility and earn the trust of stakeholders—a currency invaluable in today’s information-saturated landscape.

In the tumultuous terrain of public scrutiny, both journalists and PR professionals must weather storms of criticism and backlash. Whether confronting pushback from subjects of investigations or managing reputational crises, resilience and agility are indispensable virtues.

By proactively addressing concerns, maintaining transparency, and orchestrating strategic responses, PR practitioners can navigate turbulent waters with grace, emerging stronger and more resilient in the face of adversity.

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