Posted by: Melissa De Lyser | October 5, 2013

Effect of Twitter on Public Relations for Oct. 7

While I’m not suggesting that Wilson & Supa’s research is invalid, I’m curious to know how survey respondents defined “use” of Twitter.  In social media, the word “use” is almost as ambiguous as “engagement.”  What defines use?

Consider this example: A journalist skims his/her Twitter feed four times daily.  He/she never clicks on anything and never tweets.  However, he/she does pick up story ideas from PR tweets that he later follows up on.  Is he “using” Twitter for media relations?  I say yes.  However, I know journalists who say no.

Why would a journalist so narrowly define Twitter use?  Anecdotally, I think more traditional journalists are reluctant to admit to using a source that doesn’t have the fact-checking, editor-controlled aspects of the AP newswire.  Journalists would scan the AP wires looking for story ideas much like they now scan Twitter. I don’t think there’s much difference.  But those who started their careers before the Internet may feel differently about admitting that they use 40-character phrases to develop story ideas.

In addition, is there a perception that Twitter has become the new PR Newswire?  PR Newswire, while used by journalists, felt advertorial, in that it was biased and self-promoting.  As Wilson & Supa mentioned, there’s definitely a sense of that with Twitter, too, when it comes to media relations.  Are journalists reluctant to admit how much they use on Twitter as a result?


  1. I had the same reaction- “use” seems ambiguous where there ought to be a distinction made between participants in and observers of media dialogue.

  2. There indeed is a certain mystique that we always want to associate with journalism. And of course, the practitioners themselves, would be the last to want to introduce to everyone else the notion that a lot of times, the process of news-gathering can be as mundane as an accountant tallying up the sheets or yes, scrolling through the Twitter feeds and “information subsidies” from their PR contacts.

    Who can blame them? I mean, a lot in the profession grew up thinking that the proper career focus for a journalist is to be able to be in a position to overthrow a president someday? In a job that can be very thankless, the only real rewards sometimes is being able to go to bed at night knowing you’ve worked harder and done more to protect the planet from benightedness and deliberate misinformation.

  3. I have started to see more news articles that quote tweets in place of first person interviews. I think journalists are relying on Twitter more than the study necessarily indicates given the propensity for massive gaffes to occur in the political and corporate Twitter-sphere.

    I think perhaps where they tend to tune Twitter out and not rely on it as a news source is for brand specific feeds, which can tend towards just acting as a public relations vehicle for the brand rather than a means for creating meaningful discourse around issues in their industry. Public relations professionals could perhaps improve the relationship with journalists by curating other content as well and really engaging discussions with their followers.

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