It’s hard to believe that a world once existed before the dawn of the world wide web and social media. Up until the nineties and early aughts, newspapers and broadcast news were the primary sources for information – nearly universally – and PR pros worked to place their client’s news “above the fold” or as the day’s top story.
Today, of course, virtually anyone can share news and information thanks to social media, and news consumers curate their own feeds from a seemingly endless array of online sources. Fewer of those sources seem to be traditional newsrooms, which regrettably are shrinking, as are the number of trained journalists. In our 20 years as Devine + Partners, several of us have experienced the impact of these changes and engineered new approaches to amplify client stories. D+P’s senior executives – Jay Devine, Christine Reimert, Sue Hamilton and Kevin Shinkle – share their perspectives on PR’s evolution over their tenures in the profession, along with the opportunities and challenges of today’s landscape.
How has social media impacted the integrity of news and information?
Jay: While social media has created many more opportunities for our clients to reach their audiences, it has also raised new risks. One such risk is false information, which can easily be spread on social media. Therefore, we encourage all our clients to monitor their social media carefully and quickly correct false facts and information.
Christine: From an issues management perspective, the rise of misinformation and false information on social media platforms makes fact checking more important than ever. It’s critical that brands understand exactly what they’re responding to and what is being served up to audiences on social about their brands so they can assess any potential risks and determine the best path forward.
Content PR, or “owned media,” rose to prominence over the last few years. Why is it important for a company to “own” their media, in addition to “earning” it through placements in traditional media?
Kevin: Simply put, it’s important because you can own your own story – and because to be successful, you must. In a world with dramatically fewer reporters and in a world where you can produce your own stories, videos and graphics, and distribute them yourself to your key audiences, it’s senseless to ignore this incredible opportunity.
Sue: Owned media gives you the chance to share your story – with your messaging – in your own words, directly to your audiences. It is also a way to connect and engage with – and stay connected with and engaged with – those audiences. It helps you build a relationship.
Once upon a time, everyone loved the print newspaper. How has that changed today?
Jay: I still love print newspapers even if the print is delivered digitally, and I strongly believe that there will always be a place for newspapers of record because no other medium covers, reports and investigates what is happening locally, regionally and nationally. This investigative function is critical to a healthy democracy.
Kevin: When I was a business editor, I used to have seven newspapers on my desk to start the morning: The Star-Ledger, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the New York Post, the New York Daily News and USA Today. Today? I haven’t picked up a hard copy of a newspaper in at least three years. Do I miss the romance of newspapering and the feel of opening up fresh copy of the paper each morning? Sure. There was something intrinsically special about it. But I’m probably reading more news from more sources than I was back in the glory days of newspapers, and that’s not a bad thing.
Christine: I know I’m in the minority, but I still love to read a print edition of the newspaper. It matters where stories appear in the paper … front page? Above or below the fold? A story’s position helps telegraph the significance of the news. The journalist who wrote it likely advocated for that spot. It’s all part of the reporting process. Online news sites do replicate that to some degree.
Sue: I love the accessibility of a digital version of the “print” newspaper. Your phone can read it to you. You can access news immediately. It’s easy to search. And it’s easy to share. It does put a lot of pressure on the reporters and editors, as it has changed the timeline. I’d love to hear from them on this topic, too.