As a publicist who has worked in the evolving social and Web media industry for close to 10 years now, I have witnessed many industries that were once “afraid of new media” slowly embrace its reach and broadcast power. Little by little, organizations from financial services to politics continue to dip a toe into the unfamiliar waters of social media. A recent study by a British PR firm showed that some 264 world leaders now have Twitter accounts, and the researchers believe that 30 of them do their own tweeting. Altogether, world leaders have sent more than 350,000 tweets to almost 52 million followers – more proof that Twitter is a true (new) media channel (and, in case you haven’t heard, self-production is not a requirement).
While 16 of the G-20 leaders are actively using Twitter for public diplomacy, many heads of state and government leaders in China, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Italy still do not choose to broadcast on the social media channel.
As you probably have surmised by now, quite a few industries have just started to explore communicating in “the Twitterverse,” including the legal industry. Legal marketers, mostly on the agency side, are naturally very involved in social media, but it’s interesting to me that there are still so many legal professionals who cannot understand why we even need to bother with Twitter. Perhaps referring to this new media channel as the Twitterverse might be a deterrent? I’m not sure why the public relations firm that conducted the study even uses that term. Like it or not, Twitter is a real media channel, not another universe. I wonder if television was treated in the same manner back in the day – I have no doubt it was. Let’s not forget that Twitter was the “media channel” that actually broke the Japan earthquake news. I think that was the turning point.
Regardless, much like traditional media, most professionals in any industry who are not public-relations savvy should not self-produce or broadcast on Twitter at will. There is a difference between professional social media broadcasting on Twitter and the kind of broadcasting a teenager might engage in when talking to friends about a new boyfriend or the school dance.
How do we, as a public relations firm and legal marketers, support legal professionals (from partners and lawyers to vendors) in embracing the power of Twitter as a true broadcast media channel? Or should I say as “a broadcast channel that embraces brand journalism”? As a public relations firm, our job is to show our clients in the legal industry how to build a relevant and appealing content strategy, and how to broadcast resulting content in a tactical way that will support online reputation and build an approachable online persona that people will trust.
I believe that, if produced and managed correctly, social (or new) media is a great way for lawyers and firms to build “good public reputation,” as well as better publicity, via best online thought leadership practices, including broadcasting interesting and important (“good”) news about one’s firm, practice, clients or business or the industry overall. Building a better online persona via a broadcast channel like Twitter, as well as in other networks such as LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube, among others, is more important than ever before. In this age of new media, a corporate brand – and especially a personal professional business profile – that simply sits dormant as a directory listing does not do much for any organization or individual, unless perhaps you’re the president of the United States. But even then, what is the use of a stagnant social media profile in a highly active broadcast channel?
As social media continues to evolve as a legitimate broadcast media channel, those who do not use it as such (within reason and produced in a “human and lifelike manner”) will not reach the kind of PR or marketing goals they are looking to obtain on the Internet. There are ways to hold back confidential information, as well as ways to pull in the right audience by sharing interesting ideas, facts and news.
Designing effective content and engagement that will continue to attract moving and ever-evolving audiences is a key component to being successful on Twitter and beyond. Delivery and presentation of content must also rely on knowledge about the audience. We help our clients with both sides of the process.