The past year saw more news outlets than ever before leverage social media to extend their reach and provide a forum for two-way conversations between journalists and their audiences.
At the bottom of most articles, share buttons are easily accessible, and news reports in both print and video are shared in people's personal and professional networks on Facebook and LinkedIn, extending the reach of news stories well beyond traditional channels.
News reports are also leveraging Twitter feeds the same way they once relied heavily on expert sources for points of view on various issues and trends.
The news coverage of the Iowa caucuses on CNN showed four background TV screens – three with well-known experts and one with a real-time Twitter feed that fed much of the commentary.
One huge factor in why news is becoming so social is the growth in mobile devices, and an ongoing thirst for sharing information and accessing content on the go.
Many analysts have predicted that, in 2012, smartphone sales will significantly overtake personal computer sales and the integration with social networks will continue to increase.
And it's not only on the consumer side. More companies are investing in the smartphone market, with a third of Canadians owning a smartphone and one in five believing they will replace their computers with smartphones over the next couple of years.
As news becomes more social and consumers have more access to content when and where they want it, we need to ask ourselves how our public relations strategies are changing to take advantage of this trend.
Canadians are no longer getting news solely from the source, but are relying on friends' and colleagues' shared posts and recommendations for guidance on what to read or view. The more the content can be shared, the more likely it will make its way into the trusted networks of Canadians.
And the more companies engage with consumers through social media, the more likely they will weigh in through social media in support of a company's product or service when conversations start happening and news begins trending.
With this in mind, here are few things to consider as you look at your public relations strategies for 2012:
1. Online articles are becoming just as important as print.
For many years, securing a front-page print article has been the holy grail of public relations. While that's still important, it is equally important to ensure those stories are also shared through online means, and that influential writers for online sites are also a key part of your communications strategy.
2. Expand how you measure impact beyond traditional impressions.
Consider how many retweets, recommendations and comments an article gains. There is huge value in friend-to-friend recommendations and, if articles are being shared on Facebook and retweeted on Twitter, the value is significant.
Your company should also be sharing stories and posting to links within your own social networks. Sharing articles that have been written by journalists carries significant weight, and often resonates more than a marketing or ad campaign.
3. Social media can build a great listening and engagement strategy for public relations.
It should be looked at as an opportunity to learn what people think about your products, services and organization as a whole. Review the comment section of news articles for feedback and insight into what consumers are thinking. Leverage that feedback in future announcements, product developments or customer service improvements.
The accessibility of news content online via social-media channels is playing a huge role in shaping our daily news cycle and is important to consider as part of your public relations campaigns.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic . She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.
Join The Globe's Small Business LinkedIn group to network with other entrepreneurs and to discuss topical issues: http://linkd.in/jWWdzT