Twitter as the new Public Relations?

Life isn’t too bad when your office is an 18 foot pontoon boat on a lake a on a beautiful late summer day!  It also allows you the freedom to read other things beyond the traditional media. Ok, not really, I would have read this article sitting at my desk too.

I was struck by the segment in this Sports Illustrated article about Chad Ochocinco, the erstwhile receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals, and his use of Twitter.

But there’s another motivation. He gets out his message — as ill-versed as it sometimes is — the way he wants the message gotten out, and, as of Sunday, 137,679 people were following him. Listening, presumably. It’s not necessarily an apples-to-apples comparison, but as of June, the circulation of the Cincinnati Enquirer was 188,956. He’s being heard the way he wants to be heard, and by a huge segment of Bengaldom.

Isnt that an amazing stat?  Of course not all 188,000 plus subscribers read the sport section or know what Twitter is. And certainly not all of his 137,000 plus followers even live in Cincinnati, but as someone who got their start in PR, I recognize that Ochocinco’s ability to control his message is perfect. And taking out the reporter, the editor, the story editor, and the managing editor out of the process, in one fell swoop. Poof he is talking directly to HIS people.

Given the often fractious relationship between the media and sports figures, it’s no surprise so many athletes are taking to Twitter.  And for any senior executive at a large company frustrated that they can’t get there message heard, they will be using it too.

The end of PR profession? Hardly. Two things are bound to happen:

  1. People with unfettered access to their public are going to quickly realize that they had better have a strategy for that communication or they are going to wind up looking really stupid really quickly. (I am sure it’s already happened we just haven’t seen it yet, but just wait for an athlete to Tweet about doing something illegal.)
  2. Many a senior exec is going to realize that no-one actually cares what they have to say and they will need PR to help get that message out, just into new channels.

A good example is that of Oprah and Ashton (no last names needed).  It’s not clear to me that Ashton is truly using his Twitter feed purely for publicity, but he was shameless promoting his current movie, as well as his involvement in a few social causes heavily interspersed with Tweets about going to the park, or hanging with other celebrities. In contrast, Oprah posts infrequently at best, and usually about benign topics with no clear agenda. They both have millions of followers. One has an agenda for how to use the medium, and the other clearly does not.

So the era of mass direct communications is upon us. At last we have a medium to carry our message perfectly and directly to the people without editorial (or advertising).

Or at least as perfect as it can be 140 characters at a time.

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