Twitter has a bad reputation – many users post tweets about useless or overly personal information. However, Twitter is a useful public relations tool.
In PRSA’s Public Relations Journal, Angelica Evans, Jane Twomey and Scott Talan examine the importance of the microblogging site in their article, Twitter as a Public Relations Tool. The authors interviewed a dozen executive-level PR professionals to determine the value of Twitter as part of a social media strategy. I highly recommend that anyone with an interest in Twitter and PR read this article.
VALUE OF TWITTER
The Internet has become a main means for information flow. It has displaced newspapers and radio as a source for news. In addition, Twitter is increasingly used as a means to learn about and report breaking news. More than ever, people turn to Twitter for firsthand accounts of news, as well as reviews of items and opinions of brands.
According to the authors of the article, “The relationship between a firm and its client is very important, and the relationship between that client and its target publics is paramount.” Twitter encourages two-way conversations between an organization and its audience, which is a main goal of public relations.
INTERVIEW OF PR EXECUTIVES
While I recommend reading the entire article, I will summarize the key points.
The authors of the journal article interviewed a dozen public relations executives from PR firms and asked them three main questions:
1) What do public relations executives think about the current use of Twitter?
According to the authors of the article, “Industry leaders in public relations view Twitter as a valuable asset to their daily practice.” Twitter allows micro-targeting of messages to certain communities, facilitates one-on-one conversations with customers, and allows the PR practitioner to listen to conversations and engage the audience in conversation when necessary. All PR executives surveyed stated that Twitter is a valuable part of their daily practice.
However, there are negative aspects to Twitter. Due to the quantity of information posted to Twitter, it can be challenging to sift through the tweets to find relevant conversations. In addition, organizations must be willing to devote a good deal of staff time to maintain Twitter accounts.
2) How are public relations executives using Twitter in contemporary public relations campaigns, and what are the costs associated with the application?
Overwhelmingly, the public relations executives surveyed stated that Twitter is only successful when it is part of an overall communications strategy. Twitter should serve as one piece of a larger campaign. The main use of Twitter is to communicate with a key audience.
However, many of the executives surveyed noted a tension between the cost and benefit of Twitter in PR campaigns. As mentioned in the previous question, proper use of Twitter requires staff to spend time sifting through large numbers of tweets. Since it is difficult to determine the financial benefit of Twitter to a company, it can be complicated to justify paying employees to maintain the Twitter account, even though social media is a key part of a PR strategy.
3) What do public relations executives see as the future of Twitter in public relations in these campaigns?
Many of the PR executives agreed that microblogging is here to stay. Short, instant communications (exemplified by Twitter) will continue to be important. One professional added that Twitter is not “a one size fits all solution and there are some companies for whom it may not be as relevant, but any organization with a consumer face will likely adopt it.”
Twitter allows companies to create relationships with their customers and to interact with them in real-time. An added benefit of Twitter is that it offers an opportunity for media professionals to contact PR practitioners for story ideas and information. Twitter may be the only social media outlet that offers this benefit to the PR industry.
The interview process revealed that Twitter is generally seen as a valuable public relations tool. What surprised me, personally, was the emphasis that Twitter should only be used as one part of a successful PR strategy.
Even though Twitter may not be the most vital tool at a PR practitioner’s disposal, the microblogging site provides many benefits to the PR industry. I am interested to see what other advantages will develop in the future.