The Pew Research Center’s Annual Report on American Journalism, released a few weeks ago, provides some hard numbers to support much of what we already know about the rapid rise of social media and its impact on PR. A couple of related trends outlined in the report are particularly noteworthy in relation to the present and future for public reputation management for law firms.

First, it’s clear that Americans want their news via social media. The Pew report says that 19% of Americans saw news headlines on social media sites first, and 33% of those under 30 get their news from social media. People also are getting their news from colleagues and friends on social media first and not necessarily initially from the original news sources that, by the way, also all have Twitter and Facebook pages now.

We at Jaffe PR already practice what we preach, but these updated statistics are a good reminder to again share this lesson, which is that law firms and lawyers must disseminate their news via social media channels in addition to traditional PR vehicles. The same goes for repurposing media placements. A single instance of publication is just not enough anymore: It’s vital to tweet, pin and share on LinkedIn and Facebook links to online placements. It’s also interesting that some are even predicting that most media pitching will eventually be done through social media platforms such as Twitter, blogs and instant message chat programs.

The Pew report also reveals that nearly a third of survey respondents said they deserted a news outlet because it no longer provides the news and information to which they had grown accustomed. This could be a result of news sites changing and failing in their delivery models, along with Americans’ evolving tastes in how they consume news. Most importantly, it indicates the public is up for grabs and their commitment to any single news source may be soft.

Diverse content providers, including independent news producers, are springing up to pick up slack left by traditional news outlets. Law firms also have a growing opportunity to grab a piece of the pie by developing their own legal brand journalism strategies to tell their own stories to a public that is increasingly receptive to fresh and alternative sources for news.

This all reinforces current thinking about the tremendous value of social media in the context of reputation management. Many law firms are getting the message. For those still wavering, now is the time to get on board.