Contemporary Media Relations: Potential of Twitter in Mediating Relationships Between Public Relations Practitioners and Journalists in New Zealand
Bedi, Daljit Singh
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The relationship between public relations practitioners and journalists engaged in media relations is characterised by both conflict and cooperation. However, a changing media landscape raises questions about how the new communication technology developments are affecting this relationship. Using social media has had a significant impact on how the media relations is practiced today with a potential to influence future relationships between public relations practitioners and journalists. Social media not only allows for real-time two-way communication that facilitates organisational communication practice by sharing information and building dialogic relationships, but also allows organisations to become publishers and broadcasters to distribute their messages directly to audiences. Amongst the social media platforms, Twitter is primarily an information-sharing site rather than a social network. It is therefore seen to be having significant implications for the practice of media relations. The current study explores the influence of Twitter on the relationships between public relations practitioners and journalists in contemporary media relations in New Zealand. It uses transcribed data from semi-structured interviews with six public relations practitioners and seven journalists involved in health care communication. The study shows that public relations practitioners and journalists understand and value media relations differently. Journalists describe media relations as public relations. Public relations practitioners describe it as facilitating the promotion of their organisation’s interests through media. Also, public relations practitioners and journalists have different attitudes about their relationships with each other. Public relations practitioners consider their relationships with journalists positive, while journalists have a mixed opinion on their relationships with public relations practitioners. The study shows an increase in the influence of public relations on the media during the last decade. According to journalists, this influence is becoming an impediment to carrying out their professional activities. The study attributes the increasing influence of public relations on the media to the development of a crisis in journalism. It also reports that this crisis in journalism is because of reduced resources and time and a rapid growth of new media formats, largely enabled by new communication technologies including social media. The study suggests that this crisis has affected the current practice of media relations. The study also shows an ambiguity about the mediating role of Twitter between public relations practitioners and journalists. It shows there is an increasing influence of Twitter on journalism and public relations professions. However, both public relations practitioners and journalists do not engage with each other on Twitter while performing media relations. The public relations practitioners and journalists interviewed do not perceive any impact of Twitter on media relations, except for its help in building an initial connection with each other. They also do not see any potential shift in this trend. However, public relations practitioners and journalists acknowledge the potential of Twitter in furthering their relationship with each other, provided they use Twitter regularly to share news stories of mutual interest.