I recently attended a conference about the future of public relations, which was organised by the Channel Islands branch of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).
There are many advantages of living in the Channel Islands, but one of the downsides is that we get very few opportunities for on-island, industry relevant, professional development. It’s common for practitioners to go to the UK to attend courses and so it’s real credit to the committee that they were able to bring together some highly experienced professionals and then persuade them to cross the Channel to share their views.
In his opening speech, the chair of the CI branch encouraged us to access the venue’s wifi and tweet using the hashtag #futurereputations. Given the seniority of the speakers, they soon started delivering some great material in terms of statistics and quotes so I duly started sharing in case any of my 677 followers were interested. My tweets were shared and favourited by others in the room, and at one point I replied to a question posed online, which was then commented on by one of the speakers – as much virtual interaction as I had physically with either of them the entire afternoon.
About an hour into the afternoon, I, and the three colleagues who were in attendance, received an email from another colleague highlighting a typo in one of our tweets.
I didn’t tweet from the event again that afternoon.
Why? Well, initially fear that I’d get something wrong which then led me to wonder if it actually matters if a tweet isn’t perfect? As PR practitioners, we pride ourselves on choosing the right words and bringing them together for maximum impact, but that’s when we have time to construct whatever it is we are working on, whether it’s a media release, wording for a newsletter or content for a website. In the majority of circumstances, there is absolutely no excuse for poor spelling and bad grammar. But when you’re clearly tweeting from an event and therefore scrabbling to type 140 characters which contain the fact or statistic, the speaker name and associated hashtag before you forget what was said, does it matter if there is a typo? Will anyone think less of you professionally? Will they even notice, especially when the chances are you will tweet again within a matter of minutes? #virtualfishandchippaper
Now I’ve always been concerned about tweeting from an event, in case anyone not actively engaged on the social media platform thinks I’m just being rude, sat there with phone in hand. However, as an industry, which is experiencing first-hand the importance of online communication, it’s fairly common practice now.
But, and I am finally getting to my point, if I am sat there, so busy listening out for tweetable quotes, facts and stats and then tapping away on my phone, am I really engaged with what is happening right there in the room? Am I so zoned in on soundbites and then committing them to screen that I am actually missing out on other crucial bits of information, either spoken or visual? Am I actually learning anything in depth or can I only review it in 140 character snapshots?
I don’t have the answer, and this blog doesn’t contain invaluable insight, or more food for thought. From now on, I don’t think I will tweet from events. I will sit there, listen, take notes and learn and if there is anything worth sharing, then I will do so afterwards. What you do, of course, is up to you. Maybe tweet me and let me know……