By Heather Whaling 2011-04-14 09:40:33 UTC
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Twitter is an invaluable resource for the public relations industry. Whether your goal is to connect with reporters, improve crisis communication, find your next job, bolster professional development or offer a glimpse of a company’s inner workings -– 140 characters can go a long way. Just look at the following examples, highlighting five rich opportunities for PR pros on Twitter.
Connect with Reporters
A survey conducted in the fall of 2009 found that more than half of all journalists turn to sites like Twitter for story research. (Keep in mind, 2009 is ages ago in social media time, so this number is likely to be significantly higher in 2011.) How can PR pros use Twitter to connect with journalists? For starters:
- Update your media lists with Twitter handles.
- Create private Twitter lists for each industry or client you’re working on to better monitor reporters’ tweets. Don’t forget to include relevant freelancers.
- Monitor tweets from journalists and bloggers who frequently post when they’re looking for a source.
- Follow @ProfNet and @HelpaReporter. Both accounts share urgent source queries from reporters.
As Sarah Evans experienced, Twitter offers a direct line to mainstream media and can help secure major coverage. “Last year a minor earthquake hit Chicago around 4 a.m. To verify what I felt, I tweeted to see if others had the same experience,” Evans says. “In addition to publicly tweeting and direct messaging national news producers, I posted my story at CNN iReport. These relatively simple actions resulted in New York Times and CNN coverage — all before 9 a.m.”
Strengthen Crisis Communication
There’s an old adage about crisis communication: “If you’re not quick, you’re not relevant.” PR pros need to understand how to manage a crisis in 140-character bursts of information. That means updating frequently, monitoring search terms and key words, being responsive (without feeding the trolls), dispelling misconceptions and communicating the facts. In some situations, it may also mean providing a call to action to activate your network. Just ask the Chicago Red Cross.
While the Twitterverse is likely very familiar with the American Red Cross’s accidental “#gettngslizzerd” tweet and subsequently well-received response, you may be less familiar with the Chicago Red Cross’ use of Twitter during the blizzard this past February. During the blizzard, the Chicago Red Cross monitored relevant hashtags, used Twitter to disseminate weather and safety updates, and even connected volunteers with stranded motorists. Instead of solely relying on traditional media to convey updates, the Red Cross acted like a news outlet, providing very timely and important messages during a challenging situation.