The social networking platform Twitter (which you must have been hiding under a rock not to have heard of) has been getting a lot of column space over the last few weeks.
Some journalists are quick to dismiss it and yet others are hailing it as the saviour of journalism.
Renai LeMay, the editor at online technology news site ZDNet.com.au wrote this piece last weekand said that "Twitter represents a way for journalists to get back to their grassroots history and connect with readers and audiences in the most personal way." Despite the 'Nights of the roundtable' mythology analogy used throughout his think piece, LeMay makes a good argument about the importance of social media (in this case Twitter) to directly reach his audience and more importantly, to reach his sources of information.
Five days after LeMay's article appeared Sally Jackson from The Australian wrote a similar piece about the media use of Twitter and the publishing houses policies around its use. While the article notes Twitter's shortfalls it also extols the benefits for hacks, clearly tipping the scales in its favour. The same could easily be said for Twitter’s use for the PR community.
Increasingly, we are finding that the traditional mediums from which the public derive their information are becoming less all-powerful as a direct engagement model becomes more popular. On the same day as Jackson’s story, another journo at The Australian, Simon Canning, reported on how organisations are using Twitter to exploit the direct engagement model it offers companies. He also notes the disadvantages associated with not participating at all.
While the medium may be (relatively) new, the idea that a consumer is influenced by multiple channels is not a new one for PRs, who simply need to continue to assess all influencers and engage with the most appropriate. All the noise around Twitter simply adds to its users, increases its influence, and therefore makes it more important that this new channel join others (media, associations, analysts... ) on our targets.