Inside PR 401: On citizen journalism and PR

You could be one, so could your neighbour, colleague and friend. We’re talking about citizen journalists and, on today’s show, we discuss their place in the news cycle and how that affects PR.

Gini starts by recounting the story behind the first photo of the plane that crashed into the Hudson River in 2009, when Janis Krums, a bystander who watched it happen, took a picture, uploaded it to Twitter and the image went viral.

Joe discusses the nature of citizen journalism and says the photo was a snapshot – a one-time thing. He believes there’s a distinction between the act of witnessing and journalism, which involves editing, curation, analysis and context. A journalist’s focus should be to help people understand what a story means and that requires a more in-depth perspective.

I wonder about how citizen journalism is changing the nature of the scoop. Maybe that’s beyond a journalist’s domain and they need to rely on crowdsourcing breaking news from people who are there in real-time.

In our paid, earned, shared and owned landscape, PR people have to be resourceful about finding new ways to get their stories out there and engaging influencers.

Gini says her team approaches earned media from three angles and that includes citizen journalists. They target smaller, mid-level and influential publications and tailor the story so it resonates with each.

Final word from Joe: Look for the person who has something to say, covers a subject on a consistent basis and moves on to being a contributor to larger and more influential sources. Build relationships early and never ignore an individual if they’re intelligent, credible, trustworthy and can stick to it.

Here’s an interesting post by Mathew Ingram with examples of citizen journalism working well.

What do you think PR’s role is – or should be – with regards to engaging both citizen journalists and traditional media? We’d love to hear from you.

What do you think?

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Our theme music was created by Damon de SzegheoRoger Dey is our announcer.

Inside PR is produced by Ashlea McGrath.