Dear PR Week, it’s not about Twitter per se 10

In an unstunningly simple article in PR Week today (“Twitter has suddenly exploded“) we learn amongst other things that Edelman has 17 twittering staff and Racepoint 8, whilst Drew Benvie has twittered 3779 times.

I’d write here things like “AWESOME” and “WOW, HOW ENLIGHTENING”, but I understand sarcasm is the lowest form of wit so I’ll refrain.

What’s with all the numbers? Why on Earth are they the story? But before I explain myself, I will just dwell on the numbers for a minute.

…I don’t know a Racepoint consultant who isn’t on Twitter, and there’s a lot more of us than eight people! How can Porter Novelli global digital director Mat Morrison feel so confident in his data? He should have at least added the caveat that one can only determine when a Twitter user is a consultant from a specific PR consultancy should the individual chose to promote the fact in their personal profile.

Our micro-blog policy does not require consultants to declare their allegiance with Racepoint in their personal profile, but it does require them to declare interest when seeding or promoting a client or a client brand via Twitter.

But let’s move past these numbers to my main concern about this article; it makes next to no attempt at placing the Twitter phenomenon in context with the public relations discipline.

Sure, respect to Drew for the one quote in the article that attempts to move the agenda that way by referencing networking, story mining, issues tracking and news seeding, but the obsession with pointless data masks any kind of interesting story emerging.

There are many good attempts at defining public relations. Regular readers of my blog will know I gravitate towards thinking about it in terms of understanding and exerting influence in order to move stakeholders’ minds and behaviour to where you’d prefer them to be. But whatever it is, it isn’t about Twittering just as it isn’t about column inches or advertising-value-equivalent.

The story here is, or rather should have been, about how to wield tools and services like micro-blogging in the effective execution of your PR campaign strategy and ultimate achievement of your PR objectives.

Let’s take a look at Mat Morrison’s Twitter stream as of 10.35am today. Looking at the last 20 tweets (not a statistically significant sample I’ll grant you, but today I’ve not been inspired to be statistically inspirational), Mat @’s other Twitter users 22 times.  Of these, 20 are in the PR and digital business, and 2 are unidentifiable in that regard.

I won’t go further and analyse the content and the ensuing dialogue because I don’t know Mat’s objectives here, but you could conclude from this analysis that he may well be achieving his PR objectives if his customer is himself / Porter Novelli.  If his objective is to employ Twitter in achieving campaign success for his agency’s customers, if his objective in working with PR Week on this article was to imply just this, you’re going to have to look at more of his Twitter stream than I have to begin to guess if that’s happening for him.

If you want to know if your use of Twitter is working for you in a professional PR context, work through the normal cascade of objectives -> strategy -> tactics -> measurement. There’s no shortcut.

And for a bit of fun, take a look at this satirical video and ask yourself if others could look at your Twitter stream in much the same way?!

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10 thoughts on “Dear PR Week, it’s not about Twitter per se

  • CathyLarkin (@CathyWebSavvyPR)

    Thanks for pointing out this somewhat lacking story on twitter in PR week. It certainly only scratches the surface of this intriguing program.

    But – score one for the independent PR consultants and small PR firms. If you want to talk numbers, myself and a large number of other independent PR pros have been either out on Twitter longer, and/or (in my case) working it harder, as there are several of us with larger followings than any of those on PR Newsweek’s list. 😉

    But you put your finger on the heart of the matter. It is not all about the numbers. You are correct, Twitter is just another tool in the PR toolkit. It is shiny and new, and has unique aspects to it. Learn how it works, learn the sites “culture or style,” first.

    Yes, numbers mean something – if you are not sending out useful info, and are not engaging with your clients and prospects – your following will not grow. Along with those who just tweet out their clients press releases – that won’t fly either.

    Twitter works when you use the tool to actually connect and engage with others in authentic ways. Sure, I answer the somewhat silly question at the top of the page “what are you doing?” sometimes. It puts a face to the company, it gives people a sense about you. It is pretty hard to lie over time in 140 character bites. It makes us human.

    More often I trying to answer a different set of questions – what do these people want to hear about? How can I help connect those who have opted into my stream of messages, with info they would find useful? I think: who here would be interested in hearing about my clients (always disclosed, which can be tough in 140 characters), and try and connect 1 on 1 when possible.

    For example, I have a book author client with a book targeted to mothers. I connected with several mommy bloggers in September via Twitter. In October/November, two of them tweeted requests for books for moms for large holiday giveaways. I started a dialogue – and 3 of my client’s books were featured close to the top of the page on both giveaways, with full reviews. One book in the series book was just featured again for another site giveaway, at the top of the page where everyone who registered to win the goodie bag saw it. I’m still waiting for figures – the mom blogger has a sick 2 year-old.

    These results are very small examples, and can’t compete with larger promotions from the big PR firms, but the Model Does Compete. Find your client’s constituents, connect with them authentically on places like Twitter. And move the dialogue forward appropriately. I just participated in an online twitter chat and was asked by the mommy blog site owner (who I’ve been in touch with via twitter on and off for a while) to submit a follow-up piece on what PR pros would like to see on a blogger’s site. The trust begins to build.

  • Lisa

    The data in any article should be accurate or not used. Period. I am not sure however that I agree with your premise. Just because you’re a PR person on Twitter, it doesn’t mean that every Tweet must be about your company or client. Part of being a good PR person is being in the know, being creative, identifying interesting trends, etc. It’s not just about hawking the goods and services of a company. A smart PR person on Twitter uses the channel in multiple ways that are tailored to their personality and professional goals. Just like reporters on Twitter don’t just Tweet about their stories or ask for sources, they enlighten us with other insights such as their favorite wine, political opinions or the latest on their three-year old son.

    Twitter: Think Outside The Box.

  • Michael Draznin

    Personally, I enjoy Twitter. Professionally, I think it is a great strategic tool – appropriate time, right reason, to achieve specific strategic objectives. I couldn’t agree with your post more. This run for numbers on Twitter may serve some interests well, but for my work – 18-yrs in corporate comm’s and branding consulting – it’s not about numbers; rather, it’s connecting the right message with the right audience in order to influence and create desired action. Nice distinction you make in your post. In doing so, you afford a much needed reminder/a sane def of public relations. Cheers.