The relationship between PR professionals and Journalists: Professional Self-Images, Perceptions of the Other Profession and Interplay in Different Novel Sovial Media Contexts
PR professionals and journalists have crucial and meaningful roles in society. Together they act as forces that help in the formation of public knowledge, opinion and deliberation. Their relationship is often thought to be conflicting as they may be perceived to work at the opposite ends of organisational communication and public communication. Professional selfimages and perceptions of the other group’s professional objectives may have an impact on the relationship and trust-building between the two occupations and, thus, impact on the communication atmosphere in society as a whole. Previous literature has viewed the relationship as one where the two groups are opposed to each other. New literature, nevertheless, perceives the two professions as having more in the way of similarities, rather than opposing objectives (Luoma-aho, Uskali & Winstein, 2009) and views the relationship as one of cooperation , instead of a “love-hate” relationship (Waters, Tindall & Morton, 2010). This study utilises qualitative and quantitative methods and is both descriptive and comparative in nature. Its objective is to find out what kind of roles can be detected and relationships formed between PR professionals and journalists due to perception differences and interaction in the developing social media communication field. The research premises lie within the Professional Communicators in Europe (ProfCom) project, started in 2009 at the University of Vienna, Austria. An internet survey was carried out to gather data from journalists and PR professionals from various European countries. The study results on self-image and image reveal interesting role categorisations and perception differences among the groups in Finland. PR professionals believe they have bond- and trust-building objectives, whereas journalists perceive marketing and financial goals as the main objectives of PR. Journalists identify themselves in roles directed at information-sharing, criticism and service, whereas PR professionals think journalists want to voice their own opinions and inform the public about scandals. The quantitative image findings will be deepened by qualitative interviews and background variable correlation research. In addition, based on the idea of Fifth Estate, created by William Dutton (2009), the study will continue to explore and compare the interplay of the two professional groups in the Internet and social media field, first nationally on Facebook and later internationally in other social media arenas. The communication activities, complexity of news flows and cooperation and/or power struggles between PR professionals and journalists in the social media arena is a field still very little explored and has the potential to bring important insight to the professional communication research field.