As I head into my fourth year at San Diego State University as a public relations student, I’ve taken my fair share of journalism classes. Every guest speaker that has come to a class gets the same question: “How can we get jobs in the journalism field?” And the same answer comes up every time: “Good luck” (with a little hint of sarcasm).
The landscape of media has certainly changed over the years and one of the major factors is the change of media outlets. The digital age has caused newer generations to go to the Web for answers. I’ll admit I grew up with my dad reading the paper every morning, and he still does, but I have a hard time picturing myself, or any of my peers, making reading the morning paper a daily routine. That said, whether it’s going to a news Web site or grabbing a paper, I want to be as involved as my superiors when it comes to the news. For now, I go to the Web, I use RSS feeds, I follow people I find interesting on Twitter and I become their fan on Facebook. This is the new generation of news.
What does this mean for the public relations field?
It means that I’ve changed the way I write because I am now tailoring my writing for different outlets, including social media. I’ve always been taught a very structured inverted pyramid style of writing. It comes in handy for news releases and writing samples because it shows my background. However, now it is becoming more conversational. Public relations is about relationships and as social media continues to boom, those relationships are more important than ever. People like their news in tidbits, in blurbs, in bullet points, not in long structured stories. And while many people still read the daily newspaper, we also have to focus on the emerging sources and trends that are defining our generation.
How does this translate into education?
Throughout my years at SDSU, the public relations coursework has changed so much in just a short period of time. My first writing class required me only to write news stories, structured news releases and, if we were lucky, a feature was assigned. However, just this last spring, my public relations classes required news releases, blog entries, media advisories, pitch letters and Web articles. Only one of those writing samples required a rigid structure that didn’t include bullet points or lists. My experience in writing for different kinds of media has been invaluable as I have the experience and the comfort level to reach out to emerging outlets. Not to mention it landed me the internship at Nuffer, Smith, Tucker Inc.
Where do we go from here?
No one really has the answer to that question. Someone could write a book about it, but by the time it was published it would be out of date. Someone could put a story in the morning paper, but by the time it comes out, millions of people would’ve already heard about it from Twitter and clicked through on a link to a credible news source. My advice: become a sponge, as I have, and try to learn everything about emerging media as possible, listen to those who know more about it than you do and learn to try new things. There’s no deadline to writing for the Internet or social media because publishing right now seems to be the best choice. It’s a race with no finish line, so try to keep up!