Last Friday evening, I enjoyed some happy Twitter banter with a few journalists including Charles Arthur and Jack Schofield of The Guardian (in fact it was feedback from Jack that resulted in the new look for this blog). It was only after the event that it occurred to me what was novel about the whole experience.
The modern PR industry has always laid great store by the concept of building journalist relationships – PR agency reports are littered with the term “journalist liaison” (which covers a multitude of sins from ringing up a hack to check if he/she got the press release, to taking him/her to lunch, or even trying to pitch a meaningful story).
With Twitter, the whole process of “building journalist relationships” can be played out in a very public way. If gaining a journalist’s attention is seen as a key criteria of PR, then in Twitter you have an objective measure of attention – namely the @ reply. If a journalist can be bothered to muster an @ reply to a PR, then presumably that is worth something? As Charles Arthur pointed out, could we see the emergence of a new PR metric – Cost Per @ Reply? Or CP@?
Of course, Charles wasn’t being entirely serious – and neither am I. You would see the usual issues with PR metrics arise again. Is an @ reply from, say, Charles Arthur, worth more than one from a small circulation trade mag? And unless all those @ replies actually end up as a piece of coverage, is it worth anything at all?
Still, even in jest, there might be some mileage in the CP@ concept. For prospective clients, simply searching a journalist’s Twitter stream would certainly be one way to see which PRs are attempting to engage with a particular journalist – and which PRs journalists respond to with @ replies (perhaps intelligent use of hash tags could make identifying good PRs easier to spot). Journalists using Twitter as a public feedback mechanism to PRs might help to improve the quality of material they get. Well, we can but dream.