Twitter is a public relations professional’s dream or nightmare. It’s one of the simplest, but at the same time the most complicated of recent communication tools. This dichotomy has fueled much of the fear in the PR community. That’s why I thought I would give you a few simple tips to make Twitter a PR tool, not an adversary.
I will give you a few simple steps to remove the nightmare and emphasize the dream.
The first logical step in any social media strategy is to start with listening.
Just like at a cocktail party, you should respectfully listen in on the existing conversation before jumping in. If you do this, it’s far more polite and your comments are certain to be more valuable to the group.
Social media isn’t so different from the cocktail party. I always recommend to clients, “get your social media monitoring in place before you say a single word online.” It really is just common courtesy. But perhaps even more importantly it creates an important feedback loop when you do start engaging.
Identify and Follow Key Journalist and Media
Since you’re in PR your first step should be to find the people you want to influence the most–media. Twitter makes it really easy for you to find and follow people you probably already work with (or wish you did). A simple search for publications and media outlets important to you will reveal most of these Twitter handles.
The other important thing about this step in setting up your Twitter PR is that it will give you a good survey of what these folks are interested in. They often talk about upcoming assignments and topics of interest. I have also found it helpful to survey who they talk to the most and who talks to them. These are people with “access.” Following these folks can improve your own access to important media persons.
Identify and Follow Important Influencers
I sort of already broached this important step, but there is a little more to it. Of course follow those people that seem to have access and influence your target media. However, it’s also important for you to identify those that get quoted the most or are perceived as experts. These are people that you not only want to follow, but also need to build a relationship with. You want them to know about you and begin to see you in a positive (ideally evangelical) light.
Get Engaged in the Conversation
Knowing and following all the right people is only half the battle. Now you need to be seen as one of the group. If you are really good they may forget you are PR and just think of you as one of the crowd.
The best way to make this happen is to offer valuable information and data to the community. This will build up credibility, have others see you as a contributor, and gain you significant influence within the group.
Getting engaged can also give you a competitive advantage. By setting a high bar of participation other PR competitors zooming in for the quick hit will get an ugly backlash from “your” community.
If you really want Twitter to be a big hit for you, build relationships! Not just on Twitter, but through a variety of channels–on their blog, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, whatever other social channels are important to them. And if you really want you zoom your Twitter influence turn those online relationships into offline ones as well.
The real key to making Twitter an asset to your corporate PR strategy is to build relationships and platforms now. These are points from which you can fight PR crisis later. Or, even better assets that you can leverage to build great positive PR campaigns.
Twitter can be one of the strongest tools in your PR strategy. Just dive in, listen intently, engage genuinely, and watch it pay-off when you need it. Social media should be every PR professional’s best friend.