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According to a new major report on the impact of social media and the consumption of news by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, social media platforms have now overtaken TV as the major source of news among young people. Ginny Paton, the CEO of House PR, a leading lifestyle PR agency in London says this is a wakeup call to her fellow professionals and that all future work around branding and communication must be integrated within an overall strategy around social media.

But, says Ginny Paton, the experience of her lifestyle PR agency in London is that this presents a massive opportunity around the impact of PR and communication work. Indeed, a news item that is Facebook’s top trending story has the potential to be seen by significantly more viewers that on the TV news.

Indeed, the findings of the report are that 28% of so-called Millennials – the key 18-24-year-old range – say that social media platforms are their main source of news as opposed to 24% who say it’s from TV. Few are without their smartphones and this is a new fact that the industry, including her own lifestyle PR agency, needs to address. Moreover, she says that her industry needs to forget about the traditional TV sources of news and rather remember that Facebook is the world’s leading source of news.

Ginny Paton adds that this is the new ecosystem that the work of the lifestyle PR agency must respond to, with all of the differences that social media platforms allow in terms of analysis, comment and chatter, a shining example of which how the recent Brexit campaign was played out on Facebook and Twitter.

She points to another challenge for the communications industry: according to the report, in less than 50% of cases is there even an awareness among users of the brand of the news provider that has produced the news piece they are consuming.

Ginny Paton also highlights the warning in the report that these changes will go on to cause a “second wave of disruption” to affects the world’s news groups, with “potentially profound consequences both for publishers and the future of news production”. She says this have significant ramifications on publishers as well PR in general and the London PR agency sector in particular, altering how social media and lifestyle campaigns are managed in the future.

This will create a uniquely challenging situation for news production teams and publishers: while with Facebook there is the potential to reach very large numbers of users, in terms of brand recognition, the platform itself works to reduce brand awareness. Furthermore, these producers and publishers of news are not only finding a significantly large part of their income is also lost in this process that finances their greatly appreciated journalism, but also they are in effect no longer in control of their output.

Ginny Paton says that this shows the PR industry and in particular firms like her own PR lifestyle agency in London that they urgently need to acclimatise themselves to these fundamentally changed ways in which news is consumed. She says viewers are no longer referring to brands like Fox News, the BBC and CNN, but rather consuming news pieces irrespective of their provenance. Thus, all news pieces are in a competition around merit and interest rather than a user choice based on the brand position of its producer.

She feels that the often quoted differences between print and TV are now moot. There’s only one channel and it’s social media, with the millions users who populate it. There exists now a total integration between digital skills and media relations and that the dichotomy that a London PR agency would have dubbed old versus new media is completely outdated.

 Unfortunately, many firms like her own lifestyle PR agency in London haven’t adapted to this new landscape around trying in their work to maximize a story or news item’s ‘sociability’, and this is particularly the case for entertainment PRs. Today a campaign’s success is much more dependent on a PR agency’s understanding of the algorithm running Facebook that all of their industry connections.

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