Beyond PR

Mar 01, 2013

Content and Trust: Highlights for Communicators from Social Media Week NYC

Social Media Week 2013New York is the global capital for media, so it is not surprising that during Social Media Week NYC much of the conversation centered on journalism and the people that are helping it evolve. But perhaps that is my perspective because that is what I personally was interested in and gravitated to.

Since this is my story – and my highlights — we’ll go with the idea that New York City is at the center of the media universe.

One thing is certain, in the words of Aaron Sherinian of the United Nations Foundation, “There’s never been a better time to be in communications.”

Look at all the tools now available to communicators. The Internet and social media have opened up a whole new world of opportunities for sharing and distributing information.

But with opportunity comes challenges.

“More and more people will take an image that they did not shoot and share it on Twitter and Facebook,” said Rubina Fillion, social media editor at The Wall Street Journal who spoke on a visual media panel. They don’t bother with source and attribution, which then leads to an issue with trust. “People don’t trust as easily anymore,” Fillion added. Think about fake images from Hurricane Sandy.

But the issue of trust is not simply about images that may or may not honestly represent a situation.

The lines of demarcation for journalism are perhaps easily blurred as media companies try to figure out how to keep the revenue stream alive, how to staff a publication when advertising and subscriber monies are no longer enough to keep the books in the black.

People don’t start their days by opening up a newspaper (either in print or on the web) and reading through its content anymore, according to Ben Smith of Buzzfeed who spoke on a panel which addressed the issues of funding a newsroom and the boundaries of journalistic ethics.

People are looking at their Twitter feeds and checking for top stories and trending topics before they get out of bed. And “part of that experience with news now includes cat videos,” said Smith.

Steve Rubel of Edelman and Eric Carvin of AP

Speaking on a panel at the Associated Press offices, Steve Rubel, chief content strategist at Edelman spoke of the history-making moment during the Super Bowl this year when @AP ran a sponsored tweet from Samsung. In the midst of what has always been editorial content from the AP was an advertisement.

It was a first, but not the last, according to Rubel, “Media companies are more and more accepting of marketing content.”

The walls between the marketing department and the newsroom seem to be getting thinner.

Rubel stated, “More and more journalists are acting like marketers.” They are marketing their work as well as the media organizations they work for. And, “marketers are starting to operate in real-time.” Think of Oreo’s marketing move during the Super Bowl. They are acting like each other.

Andrew Sullivan (The Dish), Derek Thompson (The Atlantic) and Ben Smith (Buzzfeed)

Andrew Sullivan (The Dish), Derek Thompson (The Atlantic) and Ben Smith (Buzzfeed)

Andrew Sullivan of The Dish, who was on the same panel as Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith, spoke with passion and sadness when he stated, “It used to be clear when you were reading an article or an ad. Now they have things called ‘native advertising’ or ‘sponsored content.’”

To repeat the words of Aaron Sherinian, “There’s never been a better time to be in communications.” There are so many avenues available to us and so much potential for making good choices and bad ones.

I would like to think that we are all trying to take the high road, make ethical choices, although sometimes we make mistakes. We lose sight of the path we intended to stay on. We lose the trust of our audience.

What are you doing to keep your audience’s trust?

Victoria Harres is Director of Audience Development at PR Newswire, the main voice behind @PRNewswire, social media lead for @Business4Better and a frequent speaker and writer on social media for business. 

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