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28 April 2011

Does your media release have a Twittercue?


Putting a Twittercue at the foot of your media release makes it easier for tweeters to forward a link to your story and greatly reduces the risk of errors occuring in the creation of a tweet.

Twitter can give media releases far wider coverage than is normally possible using conventional media. Trouble is, it is very easy for journalists or other recipients to corrupt the meaning of the release when they squeeze 400 words of carefully honed copy into a 140 character tweet.

Even with conventional media, few journalists will ever run a release in the way they received it. In the process of editing or merging the release with other sources of information, inadvertent errors often creep in. But the advent of social media has made the risk of error even greater. Thousands of citizen journalists are now reinterpreting releases for their tweets.

Tracy Jones, a Darwin-based PR strategist, cites a recent example from her neck of the woods. During Cyclone Carlos in February, the Northern Territory Government announced that “non-essential public servants with child-caring responsibilities can take personal leave if they cannot get alternate care arrangements for their children. Employees should check with their supervisor if they were not sure if they were regarded as ‘essential’.”

The tweets from those spreading the word looked something like this: Non-essential public servants urged to stay at home due to #TCcarlos

The result? Hundreds of public servants with and without children stayed at home without ever contacting their supervisor. It’s hardly the fault of the multitudes who retweeted this message, but it is a great example of how a message can lose its full meaning very quickly.

At Tracy’s consultancy, Creative Territory, they’ve recently created the ‘Twittercue’ – a set of words added to the bottom of media releases that enable tweeters to pass on a message without distorting the meaning.

If she was now writing a release for the cyclone situation described above, she would add the following to the bottom of the release: Twittercue: NTG non-essent staff who need 2 care 4 kids may take prsnl leave. Chck with supervisor #TCcarlos http://tiny.cc/3pdeaz

Her tips for writing a great Twittercue:

  • Forget the flowery language – concentrate on the facts
  • Use an appropriate hashtag (an accepted abbreviation describing the event/topic)
  • Include a url pointing to the full copy of the media release 
  • Keep it to 120 characters in total to allow for unedited retweeting 
  • Don’t be afraid to use abbreviations – speak the language of your Tweeps.

Better still, add a message to the top of the release, alerting reporters that there is a Twittercue at the end.

- Trevor Walton

What do you think?

A great idea, but I still wonder who is actually using Twitter and what impact it has.

Trev, Is the essence of this that you should include a tiny URL to your original article in your tweet? CQ Yes, that's right. Plus keeping the tweet small enough so that if it's flicked on the tiny URL doesn't get chopped off T

Tracy Jones
CQ, you are right about the essence of the Twittercue. Our advice is also to include the Twittercue in your media release. Trev is right - while conventional advice is to stay below 140 characters, we recommend a smaller character limit to allow for unedited retweeting.

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