Twitter delivers better integrated brand communications

The world of public relations could be fairly impenetrable from the outside. Ten years ago, whether the dark arts of corporate communications or the flashy razzmatazz of celebrity endorsement, PR went on at some distance from media planning.

Sue Unerman is chief strategy officer at MediaCom
Sue Unerman is chief strategy officer at MediaCom

How many followers do you have on Twitter? Legendary creative director Dave Trott has 800, Rory Sutherland, president of the IPA, has 3,000 and The Guardian's technology team has more than one million.

It is hard to compete with these Twitter giants or the likes of Oprah Winfrey, who has two million followers on the microblogging service.

But the point of Twitter for media agencies is not that it promotes one's personal profile, keeps you networked or allows your witticisms to be broadcast. Twitter's real importance lies in what it can do to deliver better integrated communications for an organisation or for a brand.

The days when a great campaign interrupted the consumer are long gone. Now, they can generate a fanbase, a feedback loop or even a movement.

The role of amplifying a brand's ad campaign used to be automatically handled, both strategically and operationally, outside the media agency. The public launch of a new ad campaign was usually led by the PR agency as a matter of course. And the CRM that followed would be handled by another specialist agency.

But building excitement about a breaking campaign and developing a dialogue with its adherents is now regularly executed by social media experts within the media agency as a part of an integrated media strategy.

Twitter is one of the social media tools that can help launch the ad and create a direct channel between the brand and the consumer. The ability to generate two-way tweets is not as arcane as the ability to influence journalists in the national press.

It is easy to say "let's tweet". As with every medium, there is more than one way to use it and it's important to get it right - failure is only too public. But that's no reason to steer away from the use of Twitter as a planned media channel. Econsultancy.com, the independent best-practice publisher, has a great list of different kinds of possible uses for the tweet.

There is the "product development" tweet, which is great for responding to service criticisms by turning complaints into a request for suggested improvements from your consumers.

 Then there is the "crowd sourcing, ideas generating" tweet, which is great for new product developments. There is also the "I want to steal your content" tweet, which is great for viral communications or building a movement.

Unlike some more traditional forms of PR, Twitter is highly accountable and measurable - and in real time, moment by moment.

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