As many of you know, we have a certification for the PESO Model that we partnered with the S.I. Newhouse School for Public Communication at Syracuse University. It launched in 2020, and as our industry has evolved, we’ve spent time updating all of the coursework. 

It’s not a small undertaking, especially because I do most of the work myself, but it’s important that it stays up to date with everything that goes on in our world.

Earlier this year, we redid the entire coursework to include generative AI, new social media tools, and improved ways to measure our work. I should be taking a break from updating that content. It’s only four months old!

And yet…

Something new happens and I think, “How can we integrate this into the certification?” Every. Single. Time.

Such was the case last week when I read an article in the University of Oregon school newspaper about how Twitch is redefining journalism. I was already thinking about the rise of the TikTok news anchor and how YouTube Shorts are proliferating our news feeds, and now I’ve added Twitch to my brain. 

This trifecta is significant for our industry. It applies to the PESO Model Certification, your everyday work, and how your earned media efforts continue to evolve. 

TikTok As a News Source

It’s no surprise that journalism, as we once knew it, is almost dead. Every year, it seems like there is some big surprise that no one anticipated, which puts traditional media beyond the scope of reporting the news. 

Thousands of journalists were fired from major news outlets just this year alone, as they reduced reporting and even let AI do some of the publishing. But the real genesis of all this is the risk of social media and getting our news from those sources. And TikTok, Twitch, and YouTube Shorts are leading the way.

Last week, I was getting my hair cut while discussing the TikTok ban bill that Biden just signed. My hairdresser, dare I say friend, has built a huge following on TikTok (she just hit her first one million views!), and she’s nervous—rightfully so. We’ve discussed certain strategies, including getting her fans and followers over to Instagram in case the ban goes through. 

Because I have more hair than a sea otter (did you know they have more hair than any other animal?) and it takes 75 years to get a haircut, the conversation eventually turned to other uses of TikTok, including how she went down the rabbit hole of the P. Diddy case. As she told me everything she’d learned about the case, I started to think about how the information we have at our fingertips is overwhelming and beautiful all at once.

She has been able to access the facts and information, just like you would in the olden days, but now has been able to form an opinion based on videos she watched from FBI experts, attorneys, and more. I was fascinated by the depth of knowledge she had about it—far more than I have from reading a few articles—and it all came from TikTok.

This is not to say there isn’t misinformation and disinformation there, just like everywhere else, but she has been able to weed through it all to find the factual information and form her own opinion.  

It’s crazy to think about how social media changes how news is consumed and produced, who is producing it, and the relationship between news producers and their audiences. 

Let’s discuss Twitch, TikTok, and YouTube Shorts and what you need to know about each as it pertains to your everyday job.

Journalism On Twitch 

Twitch is traditionally known as a gaming platform, but has branched out to become a significant player in live journalism. It offers real-time interaction between broadcasters and viewers, providing a platform for live reporting events such as protests, elections, and public demonstrations. 

The immediate, unfiltered nature of live streaming allows viewers to experience events as they unfold, starkly contrasting traditional media’s more polished and delayed reporting.

It provides three benefits that appeal to people who go there first to get their news:

  • Real-Time Engagement: Twitch allows journalists to broadcast live events as they happen, providing viewers with unedited and immediate coverage. And journalists don’t have to be the traditional ones. Just about anyone can be a journalist here.
  • Audience Interaction: Journalists can use the chat features to engage directly with their audience, unlike the news broadcasts of old. This interaction can provide instant feedback, questions, or tips, which can help guide the coverage or unearth angles that might not have been initially considered.
  • Community Building: Regular streams can help build a dedicated community of viewers who trust the journalist’s coverage. This loyal base can be crucial for sustaining viewership and engagement over time.

Journalism On TikTok

With its short-form video format, TikTok has democratized news dissemination, enabling quick, engaging updates that appeal particularly to younger audiences. TikTok journalists often use a direct-to-camera approach, making complex stories more relatable and digestible. 

The platform’s algorithm promotes content that gains early engagement, thus encouraging viral news sharing. This can be beneficial for rapid awareness but problematic when misinformation is spread.

Like Twitch, there are a few benefits to using TikTok as a newsfeed:

  • Quick Updates: The format on TikTok is ideal for creating short news updates that can quickly inform viewers about the latest developments. Creative tools like filters, stickers, and text overlays can help highlight key points and make the content more engaging.
  • Using Hashtags: Hashtags are a powerful tool on TikTok to increase the reach of news stories. Journalists can use trending hashtags to gain visibility or create specific tags for ongoing stories to build a catalog of related content.
  • Series and Threads: Although each TikTok video is short, creating a series of connected videos on a news topic can provide depth. Journalists can update a story with new developments, maintaining continuity by linking to previous videos.

Journalism On YouTube Shorts

When my kid comes home from school every day, the first thing she wants to tell me about is what YouTube Shorts her friends were discussing during lunch. The other day, she said, “Because you don’t let me watch Shorts, I feel like I’m missing out on things.” That’s a totally different topic for a different day, but the point is that they are all watching Shorts.

That’s because it competes with bite-sized content on other social networks, but also leverages the massive YouTube network. It supports visual storytelling, making it particularly effective for conveying news that benefits from visual evidence or emotion. It also allows creators to link to longer-form content, providing a gateway for deeper understanding while maintaining the brevity that younger audiences prefer.

With Shorts, you can have:

  • Sequential Storytelling: YouTube Shorts can be used to tell a story in segments. Journalists can post multiple short videos that, when viewed together, provide a comprehensive overview of a news story.
  • Integration with Longer Content: Shorts can serve as gateways to longer, more detailed reports. Journalists can use shorts to capture interest with summaries or intriguing highlights, then direct viewers to full-length videos for more in-depth coverage.
  • Analytics for Insight: YouTube provides robust analytics tools to help journalists understand what types of content perform best. This data can guide future content creation, ensuring that the news coverage meets the interests and needs of the audience.

Are you beginning to see how you might use these social media platforms to reach journalists in new and interesting ways?

Pitching the Social Media News Anchor

First and foremost, some social media news anchors are such because they were in the right place at the right time. For instance, if someone were in the Capitol Building on January 6, they would have gotten footage they’ll never again replicate. Likewise, if someone were caught in a tornado and livestreamed it, unless they’re going to become a storm chaser, they won’t be someone to add to your pitch list.

For those who have frequent newscasts (and I use that term loosely), though, there are some things you need to consider.

Understand Each Platform

And I don’t mean you read this article and are ready to go. Spend time on each of the three to understand how they’re used for news reporting, interactivity, and how each news anchor does their job. 

As we’ve discussed, each platform has unique characteristics and audiences. Just like the content you post on LinkedIn won’t work on Facebook, understanding how TikTok differs from Twitch is important. 

If you are to pitch this way successfully, your content should respect the format and the audience’s expectations. 

Build Relationships

I feel like this one is a “no, duh” moment, but building relationships is crucial. You (mostly) wouldn’t pitch traditional media without building a relationship first; the same goes for social media news anchors. 

Understanding their individual interests, past content, and how they engage with their audience can help tailor pitches that are more likely to be accepted.

Authenticity and Transparency

One challenge you’ll face with this is trying to understand who is credible, who is ethical, who is honest, and who is trustworthy. 

As you traverse those waters, you’ll also want to ensure your pitches are straightforward and align with the creator’s style and the expectations of their audience. Gone are the days of sending a news release to 1,000 journalists and not personalizing your pitches. Personalization and transparency about the product or story are essential, especially in an environment where trust is paramount.

Offering Value

The good news is you can go back to offering exclusives and providing unique information to each specific social media news anchor. This could mean early access to a product, interviews with key individuals, or insights into a story that has not been widely covered.

If you can provide experiences that help them provide value to their followers, you will have a winner every time. 

Social Media News Anchor Ethics 

I mentioned above that one challenge in pitching social media news anchors is figuring out if the person is credible—and that goes along with the ethical considerations, both for you and the person reporting the news. 

One of the most significant ethical challenges is the tension between speed and accuracy. This isn’t a new challenge—many traditional media outlets have found the same in our 24/7 news cycle. But, the rush to post news quickly can lead to inadequate verification, potentially spreading misinformation. 

The decentralized nature of these platforms and the ability for just anyone to have a pulpit means that traditional journalistic oversight is often absent, undermining the reliability of the information being disseminated. 

Brand reputation becomes even more important as you pitch stories to these new journalists. 

The Algorithm Predicts Your News

Unlike traditional news outlets, where you could turn on the TV, and everyone received the same information, social media is run by algorithms. So, what I see may be completely different from what you see. 

Also, priority is placed on content likely to generate engagement, which can skew public perception and create echo chambers. The lack of transparency about how these algorithms work and their susceptibility to manipulation are major ethical concerns.

Again, this is a brand reputation play. Weigh all of your pros and cons as you pitch stories. 

Shift In Public Discourse 

Lastly, there is a huge shift in public discourse. Of course, sensationalism and emotion sell (or, in this case, gain followers) so the social media news anchors use that to attract views and shares. But it leads to an oversimplification of complex issues, creates polarization (as we experience in our own newsfeeds with friends), and focuses on controversy versus balanced reporting. 

While you can’t do anything about that alone, we can change the tide if we all commit to ensuring the stories we pitch are factual, trustworthy, authentic, and credible. 

The Social Media News Anchor and Us

If we can count on one thing in our roles, it’s always changing. This isn’t the communications of your grandparents’, or even your parents’, era. We have some fun opportunities in front of us, while providing the opportunity to even more fiercely to protect the brand. 

Understanding and adapting to the dynamics of these platforms is crucial for effective engagement. The future of journalism in the social media era will depend on our ability to balance the demands of speed, accuracy, engagement, and integrity.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich