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It’s bordering on anathema to be a PR/comms professional in 2016 and not be on Twitter, says Chris Owen at M&C Saatchi PR

I’ll cut to the chase. In my mind, it’s bordering on anathema to be a quality PR/comms professional in 2016 and not be active on Twitter. Before I explain, I should clarify that there’s a difference to being active and being “influential” – I’m not saying everyone has to be an influencer with thousands of followers, I’m saying consultants need to be listening, watching and engaging. If influence follows, great, but it’s not the be all and end all.

Think of it like this. Twitter is an online equivalent of the world’s greatest pub. It’s where you meet and chat with the most interesting, the most opinionated and the most significant industry influencers in your (and your clients’) sectors. Why would you want to walk on by and ignore it, or press your nose up to the window and decide it’s not for you without putting effort in to see what it can bring? Equally bad perhaps is to walk into that pub, sit in a corner and play on your phone and not engage, before promptly deciding “Twitter is rubbish” and complain no-one talks to you. If this was the real world, would people come and chat to a disinterested stranger in the corner? No. Don’t behave antisocially on social platforms then whinge they don’t work.

Twitter is where you have the chance to listen in to breaking news, to chat about interesting topics and themes coming out of your industry as well as your personal interests. It’s where you can build meaningful relationships with journalists, analysts and commentators – why would you ignore this? Granted, PR is no longer simply synonymous with media relations, and it’s just part of our arsenal, but it still remains critical to know who is most influential, where they’re chatting, who they’re chatting to, and how you can get on their radar and contribute to discussions.

What’s more, from a personal level, through chatting to the great and the good (or listening in if you’re not bold enough to chat), then you’re getting wiser by osmosis. It’s to discovery what Google is to search if you curate your feed well (not difficult). Think about it – on Google, you search for the known; on Twitter you have the unknown presented to you by your followers, (and theirs in turn through retweets), on a minute-by-minute basis.

As with any platform or tool, you get out of it what you put in – you need to make sure you follow interesting people, and active journalists. If you’re complaining about what you’re seeing on your Twitter timeline, then change it – it’s yours after all. Fed up of celeb feeds? Ditch them. And you don’t need to spend hours on Twitter to stay in touch – have it open in a browser using something like Tweetdeck to present it in a far more digestible and intuitive user-interface than Twitter’s own linear timeline. Pop into it every now and then to see what’s happening. Twitter doesn’t have to take over your life to be interesting and productive.

Put simply, there’s never been a more dynamic, fascinating forum for discussion for those in the communications space. To be in media, and to not be on Twitter regularly, smartly, and enthusiastically is simply not on in my book.

Article written by Chris Owen, associate director at agency M&C Saatchi PR

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