Wilson, Drew, & Supa, Dustin W. (2013). Examining modern media relations: An exploratory study of the effect of Twitter on the public relations – journalist relationship. Public Relations Journal, 7(3), 1-20.
Public relations practitioners and journalists rely on media relations to create and disseminate news that is important and relevant to the public. Past studies have found the two professions maintain an antagonistic relationship. Although many negative preexisting attitudes appear to remain, advances in technology, and the recent emergence of social media, are changing the practices of modern media relations. As an information-sharing network, Twitter is unique from other social media, and could have perhaps the most profound implications for the future of modern media relations.
Little research has been done on how Twitter is used as a component of the media relations process. This study represents an exploratory step in generating information on modern media relations and the impact of social media, specifically Twitter, on that process. This study held three main purposes: the first, to identify current trends in the relationship between public relations practitioners and journalists; the second, to compare the current state of the relationship with previous studies; and finally, to examine the effects of Twitter on media relations.
An online survey of 114 participants (48 journalists, 66 practitioners) was conducted from Feb. 7 to March 2, 2012.
1) Compared to previous studies, the findings show little change in the antagonistic relationship between public relations practitioners and journalists.
2) Practitioners and journalists each noted that Twitter can be a valuable tool for their professions as a whole by increasing the quality and speed of information sharing.
3) Neither practitioners nor journalists fully engage with Twitter to fulfill professional responsibilities, as both groups noted they do not use the information-sharing network significantly.
4) Neither profession strongly agreed to currently using Twitter for media relations; however, practitioners slightly agreed to potentially using the platform to contact journalists in the future.
5) Journalists disagreed that using Twitter as a communication platform for media relations will improve relationships with public relations practitioners.
Implications for Practice
The findings of the study indicate little change in the historically antagonistic relationship between public relations practitioners and journalists over the past 28 years. Although this may not be necessarily surprising, it does show that the growth of social media over the last few years has not apparently had a major impact on media relations. This may be due to a lack of adoption of new platforms in media relations efforts, or a lack of understanding as to how best to implement the new platforms in an information-sharing setting.
Furthermore, the respondents of this study did not indicate they were using Twitter as a substantial part of their work day. However, the benefits of Twitter as an information-sharing platform were clearly recognized as important for both journalism and public relations.
The full article is available for free at: http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/PRJournal/Documents/2013_SupaWilson.pdf