The power of Twitter as a PR tool

5 July 2013, Blog

Twitter has revolutionised the way we operate within the comms industry – 140 characters at a time.  Whether it is being used for tracking, monitoring, live-reporting, journalism, crisis management, political communications, networking, relationship building – the list goes on, there is no doubt that this social network has become a staple in the PR toolbox. 

Relationship building/insight

It is also particularly important when dealing with the media.  Breaking news happens on twitter and is also an essential tool for news journalists.  With increasing time pressures on reporters it is a great platform to get quick responses and pitch ideas in 140 characters. 

People are using twitter to build relationships/network as part of the changing nature of business and this is very much the case with journalist engagement.  Relationship building between PRs and journalists that traditionally would have taken the form of desk visits, long boozy lunches and a number of calls over the course of the year (not forgetting the follow up calls and emails to see if a press release will be used), now often equate to a few @ mentions and DMs. 

Through twitter people share a lot of personal information that you would not have had access to in the past.  Whether it’s the fact that they like white wine, go on surfing holidays or hate Sundays – all this information helps to build up a picture of what they are like and what they are interested in.  A lot of this information, which may seem mundane to some, can be very helpful in shaping your communications with an individual, creating talking points or even just ensuring that you have the white wine on order when you meet for lunch!

Twitter dominating the news

A report produced earlier this year looking at the value of social media to journalism by Polis, the journalism think-tank at the LSE, highlights just how Twitter has come to dominate news.  The report demonstrates the important role that Twitter plays in newsgathering and telling comments from journalists reinforce this:

Joanna Carr, editor of BBC Radio 4′s news programme ‘PM’, said she “wouldn’t hire anybody who doesn’t know how to use Twitter” and Lyse Doucet, BBC’s chief international correspondent said:

“There is no question, if you are not on Facebook and Twitter, you are not getting the full story”.

Stuart Hughes, world affairs producer at the BBC says that the way he uses social media has completely changed the way he gathers news. Until three years ago, Hughes relied on wire services and the internal BBC news production system for fast information. Not anymore.  He says: “Now, very often I will only glance at that”. Instead, Hughes uses Twitter.

Reporting is now in real time Hughes says:  “Social media allows me to get much closer to the story. There are journalists and other people on the ground reporting in real time and sharing it in real time, so by the time a story actually appears on the wire, very often I will have already spotted it through social media”.

Social media as a channel for communication has grown in popularity and importance for journalism of the last few years and with statistics likes these you can see why:

  • The BBC has seen a consistent increase to referrals to its news website via social media –  500% between 2010 and 2012
  • At the end of 2012 @BBCBreaking Twitter account had more than 4.5 million followers – it now has 6.2 million

Twitter and other social networks have become the norm in terms of how many of us consume news.  Online channels and the advent of digital media has opened up our choices and in a time when many are so short on time being able to pick and choose your information and where you get it from is crucial.  Across the globe people are living via smartphones and are used to doing things on the go, fitting in news consumption with busy schedules, sharing their own news and reporting on things that they witness. It is very much a two-way street.

So with a wealth of information at our fingertips and the number of choices available it is important that organisations as well as individuals make sure they are making the most of the opportunity and increase their visibility.

JBP Staff Member

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