How Twitter is becoming the tech newsroom
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Let’s start with the definitions. Centralized PR means that all press communications go through an authorized channel, often a PR professional, in the form of official press releases. Journalists have to rely on a single gatekeeper and wait for access to information.
In 2021, companies still relied on centralized press communications to launch products and disseminate corporate information. Meanwhile, the tech industry comes up with news almost daily, whether it’s Facebook rebranding, Donald Trump launching a social network, or Apple unveiling a new MacBook. Can formal PR communications cut through the noise?
Almost never. Looks like I’m shooting myself in the leg, but a centralized approach to PR is no longer relevant for the tech industry. Innovative and fluid in their meaning, technology and media live and breathe with trends, impactful reactions and stay at the top of the agenda. This is where decentralized public relations comes in handy.
What is Decentralized PR?
Decentralized public relations means that the company has several sources of legitimate information for the press, especially on social media platforms. These sources may include, but are not limited to:
Company social media profiles used to respond to media, for example, Viber was able to transmit its position directly to a journalist, while it was of great importance to users.
Personal social media profiles of the CEO and C-suite, for example, Elon Musk’s infamous Twitter where posts can cause dramatic changes in stock markets.
The personal social media profiles of functional leaders and PR representatives, for example, Matt Cutts’ Twitter was a major source of information about Google search algorithm updates until his resignation in 2016 .
AMA Reddit or threads run by the company experts etc.
Of the good examples I’ve seen recently, quite a few belong to Apple, which changed its press communications policy last year. During the unveiling of the new MacBook Pros in October, Apple posted a message on Twitter minutes before emailing reporters. And, used to post platform-exclusive video ads.
Moreover, Apple announces the latest news not only through the official brand pages, but also through company employees. And Google picked up on the trend by announcing the Pixel 6 in a funny chain of tweets between all of the Google services.
Decentralized PR has multiple benefits – from more human and direct lines of communication to the ability to react quickly to events without being held back by chains of approvals, for better and (hopefully) hotter communication and coverage. Ultimately, “journalists want pitches sent by the founders, not PR agencies,” as Josh Consitine writes.
Related: 8 Questions That Will Tell You Whether You Should Use Social Media Or Not
How to do decentralized PR?
Much like digital transformation, a transition to decentralized PR cannot happen overnight. Instead, every company should approach it with caution to avoid a Wild West in its public communications. Here are some tips to consider.
Know your strengths
Despite all the benefits, it’s not for everyone. By default, startups should use an advantage of direct-to-media communication – the founders and team are always the best and often the only speakers. At the start of the business, it makes sense not to outsource your reputation entirely to public relations and build your credibility directly instead.
For large companies, a classic press service combined with additional lines of communication is a great idea. In the Apple example, Twitter communications are complemented by a powerful press center with all the b-rolls journalists and bloggers need, including the ability to download text and graphics.
Twitter has long been a platform where journalists hang out. And for many startups, Twitter is also the main platform for the presence of the founder and the creation of a community around his vision. According to a to study by MuckRack:
76% of journalists say Twitter is the most valuable social network for them, and 37% plan to use Twitter more in the next year
16% turned to Twitter as their primary source of information, a trend we’ve seen over the past four years
Twitter is about interaction and context, memes and communication. You have to be a communication whiz to excel at it — or Cardi B. But would uploading all the press releases to Twitter be a done deal? Of course not!
Other platforms such as LinkedIn might be more relevant to the message you are delivering. Microblogging, expressing opinions on the current agenda, or even communicating with potential employees can bring long-term benefit. Additionally, following media executives and journalists on Twitter can ensure you are aware of the latest media policy updates. For example, the Updated orientations of Verge and Quartz on the conditions under which journalists will interview people in confidence. And there are times when social media should be put aside – even the pros make mistakes and offend many journalists at once.
Related: Want to do a PR campaign? Focus on social media first.
Create a policy
Probably the most important step is to define your approach to online press communication. Public relations and media policies provide a framework for appropriate online publication and discussion. For employees and key business stakeholders, including blogging, user-generated video and audio, virtual worlds, and social media. It is also a document that can explain the most common public relations terms such as exclusivity, embargo, pitch, types of press releases, etc.
Identify key business stakeholders who can comment on expert topics. Decide which topics you’re ready to talk about and which you’re not, which business stories you can tell and which are limited by legal limits, business strategy or confidentiality. Think about what you would like to read and learn about brands on a regular basis. Determine who is responsible and what levels of commitments you are making.
It is convenient to create a transparent approach based on a common understanding of industry best practices, to avoid public relations issues such as The CEO calls the journalists to do their job. A public relations policy document should not only give you flexibility. It should also set clear guidelines on the level of communication you want to establish with external audiences.
The media train people
It is essential to coach the founders, the C-suite and the more junior leaders so that they speak directly to the media. Use the policy, but also share the useful ones tips which were donated by journalists. For anyone authorized and trained to speak publicly on behalf of the company, it is recommended that they subscribe to opinion leaders and journalists, and allocate one hour a day to read, comment and share interesting observations.
Public relations work is like compound interest in finance. You invest quality effort on an ongoing basis, and it comes back in the form of accumulating and growing a positive reputation. This work takes time and requires a smart test-and-learn approach. Make sure your team has a clear performance tracker and KPI framework to showcase the benefits of decentralized PR. If done well, it will increase audience loyalty.
Related: 7 must-have PR strategies for 2022