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What is Signal and What Does it Mean for Public Relations?

by Chelsea Higgins

mobile public relations social media technology twitter

“Find me on Signal”

You may have seen that phrase on a number reporter’s Twitter bios. What is Signal, and why am I supposed to find reporters on it?

To put it simply, it’s a messaging app available on both iOS and Android. More importantly, it’s an encrypted messaging app that creates a secure connection for all users. Signal enables users to independently verify the identity of the person they are messaging, as well as the integrity of the data channel. Signal has been around since 2010, but it wasn’t until 2013 that end-to-end encrypted group chat and instant messaging capabilities were added to the software.

Why are reporters hooked on an encryption app?

It’s actually not that surprising that reporters are offering sources a new and secure way to come forward with information. The press has long been the informal fourth branch of government because of its ability to act as a check on political players and ensure they don’t abuse the democratic process. Press rely on sources and informants to help crack the stories the public deserves to know about. With the growth of technology, sketchy meet-ups a la House of Cards are no longer needed to share sensitive information with the press.

Signal is just one of a number of apps that news outlets are using to enable sources to contact them safely about sensitive information. For example, The Washington Post, The New York Times and ProPublica have all launched pages on their website to direct the public on how to share information with them. A number of the ways listed on these sites include encrypted messaging and email options.

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What does the rise of encrypted apps mean for PR professionals?

The jury is still out on how encrypted messaging like Signal will affect the way PR pros do their job. Right now it seems these apps are used mainly by members of the public to share sensitive information with the media, but as these apps continue to grow in popularity, PR professionals should take notice. Sharing information concisely and accurately with press is key to building lasting media relations, and these encryption apps could evolve into a new way to maintain and cultivate strong relationships with press. Perhaps one day embargos won’t be pitched over email, but messaged over Signal!

What do you see as the PR advantages to encrypted messaging apps like signal? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us at @BIGfishPR.

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