I recently participated in a Tweet chat hosted by @CIPR_UK exploring the relationship between corporate social responsibility (CSR) and public relations (PR). It took place over lunch and motivated roughly 30 PR professionals to eat and tweet together for an hour under the hashtag #CIPRchat.
Over the years, I’ve participated in and/or hosted dozens of Tweet chats. Yet, if I had to classify my feelings for this particular social media tool, I would choose “It’s complicated”.
On the negative side, Tweet chats always leave me feeling a bit disappointed (i.e. did I really just spend my lunch break doing THAT?!) for several reasons. First, 140 characters allow little elaboration space. I mean, how much can you really say (of value) about CSR as it relates to PR, or the role of gender in climate change action, or how to find and claim your passion, in 140 wee characters? List of ongoing Tweet chats.
Second, Tweet chats are less like an actual chat with a statement and response, and more like multiple streams of consciousness being shared live without filter. For example, while @stuartbruce is asking a new question, @rebecca_g is answering a previous question, and @CarysSarah is just joining while @Davidcoethica is agreeing/disagreeing with a previous comment and @samwilding66 is making a comment about something seemingly unrelated*.
For those expecting a real conversation, a Tweet chat can be as frustrating as a conference call, an experience hilariously demonstrated in this must watch video:
But on the positive side, there is also much to love about Tweet chats. Despite the disjointed nature of the forum, I still left the #CIPRchat having accomplished several tangible things:
- I followed 12 new people on Twitter based on our mutual interest in the practice of #PR.
- I joined the CIPR CSR Linked-in group to stay involved in a (much more substantive) conversation on CSR and PR.
- I signed on to receive notifications from CIPR about news, upcoming training, events, etc.
If you consider the CIPR definition of PR, that
“Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”
then the #CIPRchat was a PR smash hit!
CIPR successfully gathered a group of people (its publics) together to discuss a topic of mutual interest. In doing so, it built its own network and further established itself as a thought leader in this area. In taking part in this chat, I became invested, and therefore became more willing to further increase my involvement with CIPR (FITD technique). In just one short hour, CIPR managed to build its authority and influence, connect with its publics, connect its publics to each other, create goodwill thanks to the network development opportunity it provided, and promote its brand and service offerings, all for FREE. Like I said, a PR home run.
It would seem that the old comparison of social media to a cocktail party, holds true. If you focus on the quality of the conversation generated via Tweet chats (or cocktail parties), you may be disappointed. But if you focus on the networking, engagement and overall PR value of the interaction, you’ll be looking for the next opportunity to host or participate in one.
*All of @samwilding66‘s contributions to the #CIPRchat were on topic. I was just using her as an example for the sake of the post. Sorry Samantha!