Is your PR twitter ready?

Twitter Cue makes your content shareable (Image: eldh via Flickr)As I’ve been hunting around the sites of other Top End practitioners in marketing and PR, I stumbled across a rather helpful insight on the Cre8tive Territory site regarding Twitter Cue.

The concept is a simple one: make sure your news and public announcements are easy for others to share accurately.

The application is also a simple one.

But the ramifications of this technique stretch beyond a professional tactic and point directly to the shifting roles and prominence of ‘the journalist’ and the ‘mass media news machine’.

Here’s how it works and why it is worth understanding.

The media does not always mediate well, nor should it

If you think for a second about the term ‘media’ and its role in news reporting, it is clear it sits between news subjects and the audience.

In a romantic moment of reminiscence, we might dream about firebrand journalists and editors holding true to an ethical pursuit for truth and the common good. In a more sober moment, we might understand that these days commercial pressures and concerns not only dictate that sensationalism and contrived conflict rule the day in the hope of grabbing the attention of a jaded public, but the nature of stories and their presentation is conceived around a goal of holding eyeballs or ears long enough to expose them to advertising messages. Even my beloved ABC and its promised, more substatial alternative to the shallow, sugary commercial tv breakfast programs, ABC News Breakfast, has become a sad caricature of its counterparts with an increasing amount of time spent on quips and SMS messages, pointless live crosses because they can (if I see one more live cross to Melbourne or Sydney airport to listen to passengers whine because weather or volcanic ash has grounded their flights, keeping them alive, I will consider paying someone to do something controversial to divert attention) and seemingly expanded and waffly sports segments – lowest common denominator stuff indeed!

Amid this whirlpool of competing demands, your business’ media release gets tossed about and assessed for conflict, drama or novelty value before being rejected or used. If used, some questions will be asked of you or a competitor to produce a piece of content that will stir passions or fill gaps.

The object of your livelihood becomes a plaything.

In defence of my former colleagues, it is often the case that businesses churn out boring, navel-gazing material that amounts to little more than a shoddy attempt at advertising and is rightly rejected. Or the media release is trying to ‘spin’ a story into a positive light and the journalist must rightly unravel the spin for the public good. An extreme example would be Power and Water Corporation issuing a media release on a power blackout and spinning it as a major contribution to decreasing greenhouse gas emissions!

But as a business with a genuine message to share, you are no longer beholden to entrusting your message to busy strangers who have other agendas to follow. The internet itself through online news release sites (like newsmaker.com.au) and your own blog (I recommend WordPress) allow you to cut out the ‘middle man’ or the ‘chinese whisper syndrome’ and communicate directly with your marketplace.

Thinking out loud I am wondering if this new, direct avenue of communication between news makers and news consumers will sharpen up traditional news outlets so that they are more responsive and responsible about the way they treat news and those people, companies and organisations whose tragedies and celebrations they have fed off for decades?

Let’s assume we have a story to tell …

So how can you make the most of your story idea with the media and the public online?

One option put forward by Cre8tive Territory is to produce a media release with an added component: a summarised version at the end using 120 characters or less so that your key message can be easily on-tweeted by any interested parties.

There is a great example on their introductory blog:

A recent example was an announcement from the Northern Territory Government in Australia during Cyclone Carlos allowing non-essential public servants with child-caring responsibilities to take personal leave if they could not get alternate care arrangements for their children. Employees should check with their supervisor if they were not sure if they were regarded as “essential”.

The tweets from those spreading the word looked something like this:

Non-essential public servants urged to stay at home due to #TCcarlos

The result? Hundreds of public servants with and without children stayed at home without ever contacting their supervisor.

As you can see, even when your messages are re-shared by social media users, you can still suffer from being misquoted, misunderstood or by having your words twisted innocently, as in the example above.

The Twitter Cue concept is a simple antidote. At the end of each announcement you make, you produce a ready-to-tweet summary for others to copy and share. I suppose this is how some people actually view media releases, especially if local outlets have a habit of printing media releases verbatim.

It make me wonder if we should take this one step further and provide Twitter Cues for blog articles and individual page content on our websites? For this page I might produce this:

Simple idea for helping people retweet your messages accurately. bit.ly/RITE-twitready

That was86 characters leaving a whopping 54 spaces for retweeting, commenting, etc.

If you have tried this approach, I would love to know if people adopted your Twitter cue or persisted with their own take on your message?

And you are a Twit or a blogger, would you find these abbreviations helpful or patronising?

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