How communications professionals can benefit from digital journalism?

Everyone is going digital and that’s been the buzz word of the day in the lives of communications professionals for the last few recent years at least. Landscape of the traditional journalism, whether print, television, or radio, has been radically changing and gradually merging into the digital world that surrounds us. Today, digital tools, big data analysis, and multiple social media platforms engage with different outlets delivering news, be it traditional or online for that matter, interlinking with each other continuously. This interlinkage either amplifies or suppresses different news items depending upon their nature, importance, urgency, context, content, user engagement and audience response.

The media landscape is constantly being shaped up by legacy trends and contemporary affairs and this is something to be understood well when we talk of digital journalism. In almost all media outlets the traditional reporters have been added with data journalists, analysts, or researchers aligning themselves with the current data-heavy environment. Various phenomena are affecting the media industry in a technical, tactical, practical, and intellectual manner, and digital journalism is evolving around all these parameters.

Critical thinking and data-focused research have become an imminent requirement for journalistic stories in current times. It’s no longer about writing a good quality 500-words breaking news copy or a 3000-words in-depth feature content. With the cross-linkage of social media platforms and the availability of immense data, every story generates its threads to connect, which seeks and delivers further information, research opportunities, data points, and analysis, etc. It also creates opportunities in terms of impact over the audience, behaviour change, and impact assessment in the short to long run. Digital spreads much faster when compared to traditional channels, something that is already established.

Big data is the in-thing for most of the journalists and nowadays there is a special focus among them on learning to code and visualising data being new-age media requirements. Any large breaking news, say for example any WikiLeaks or activist-led stories may just require a great amount of diverse data visualisation that must of course be accurate too. The impact of such a story on different audiences and the information that can be digested/consumed properly without being misunderstood/misinterpreted by varied audiences always remains a challenge.

In the current context, let’s say Covid19 related stories would pose a similar challenge for journalism. Common public, governments, bureaucrats, consumers, and corporates, all of them will have different consumption requirements in terms of news and related data. A single Covid19 story may have multiple perspectives and angles to be explored from a data perspective and targeting specific audience groups.

Challenges the journalists might be facing in Covid19 times may range from communicating the problems of public, ensuring they get the right information, clearing the floating myths and misinformation in social media platforms, building faith in the minds of public by mitigating their fears, etc., among many other things. Most of this requires immense expertise in analysing and reporting data in a credible, accurate, presentable, and consumable fashion from the audiences’ perspective.

The work of communications professionals either from PR firms or corporate communications departments start from here. An understanding of how news is gathered, reported, and disseminated in the current times of digital journalism becomes immensely important for them to connect and leverage the power of the news.

Today, it’s not only about getting that right picture on a certain page or specific slot on the radio or TV. It can just be a visual story with dozens of pictures being flashed on the digital platforms of a leading publication or electronic media. So, if your storytelling requires many pictures, let them be there in abundance to tell your story to the world. Similarly, audio interviews, multimedia, audio-visuals, infographics, data-analysis charts, etc. all of them make a significant part of digital journalism.

Another most important development of the recent times is the emergence of alternative news media sites, which also influence significantly. Many of these news sites may not be as popular in terms of absolute individual readership/viewership, but there’s another side to it. Today, we have seen that there’s been a rapid increase in the number of such alternative platforms having their own, strong, and unique audiences, thereby creating a huge opportunity to reach your message across a wider audience.

Excellent understanding of digital journalism including data sciences, research, and the ways of news gathering and reporting along with the insights into the contemporarily available alternative media platforms can certainly bring in great value for the practicing public relations and corporate communications professionals beyond imagination.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Praveen Nagda
Praveen Nagda is the CEO of Peregrine Public Relations, a full-service corporate communications and public relations consultancy firm delivering a pan-India reach to its clients. He also heads White Coffee, an independent events & celebrity engagement company.

Praveen has been closely associated with many national and international events related to cinema for children, art and culture. He has a well-rounded experience that cuts across all key sectors of PR & Corporate Communications.

He started his career with URJA Communications, an advertising agency specialising in technology brands, where he was instrumental in developing the PR division. Post this, he had a stint with Horizons Porter Novelli, a global public relations consultancy. Thereafter, he was heading the IT & Telecom division at Clea PR, a leading Indian public relations and communications company followed by a fairly long stint with Omnicom Group agencies viz. TBWA\India and Brodeur India.

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