Business and News Media Perspectives on the Power of Social Media Publics: Case Finland

Niina Sormanen


The Internet, social media, and their varied online publics have affected the working processes of public relations (PR) practitioners and journalists. The digital era has enabled access for various online publics, both individuals and communities, to create, share and search information online and also potentially to increase their communicative power by using networks for influencing, challenging or holding businesses and news media accountable. This interview study investigated Finnish PR practitioners’ and journalists’ perceptions of the potential communicative power of individuals and communities operating on social media and the effects these publics’ online presence and activities have on the professionals’ working processes. The results reveal that despite increasing access to monitoring and joining online discussions, both professions show hesitancy in entering into dialogue with confrontational publics. The professionals have quite a positive stand towards easily classifiable individuals, such as bloggers, but fear more arbitrary individuals’ discussions online. Social media’s communities, such as boycott or lobby groups, present a cooperation potential but the professionals lack strategies to confront them. Overall, the communicative power of social media’s individuals and communities is clearly acknowledged and tied to their missions’ and/or issues’ topic, quantity of people involved, amplitude of discussion, media attention and good organization and professionalism of activities and communication. The study shows further need of research and definition of unclassified online publics and new strategies for both professions to confront them amidst the special communication culture of social media.


PR practitioner; journalist; communicative power; social media; online publics

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