Cision, an online database provider of media contacts aimed at PR professionals, is planning to add journalists’ Twitter handles. Many members of media have joined the ranks of bloggers who are actively leveraging Twitter for its ability to amplify their reach, so the move by this contacts vendor isn’t all that surprising. In fact, analyst firms, with the exception of Jeremiah Owyang and Forrester, are just starting to awake to this new powerful and growing channel. At Ignite PR, we use Twitter to communicate internally and externally with peers, follow breaking news, discover interesting data, spot emerging trends and meet or follow interesting people. Twitter’s most important value is its inherent nature around organic participation and the meaning and connection behind one’s network. On Twitter, one can engage with other interesting individuals who have similar interests, share great content, and are just interesting people in general. Twitter along with other social media channels, such as Facebook, Digg, YouTube, FriendFeed, etc., provide a simple and interactive way for people to engage in conversations with a wide array of individuals and expand or build a new network of interesting contacts.
Cision’s move raises a red flag however. When other database vendors start selling off Twitter names/handles, they stand to benefit at the expense of others. So far, PR folks actively using Twitter early on seem to be using it in a way that is not causing friction and we wholeheartedly applaud their practice-to-date. Yet there is still cause for concern when PR folks are using Facebook to actively pitch reporters and bloggers. One can easily see novice PR people blasting press release links or pitches aimed at Twitter users, namely press and bloggers, because they aren’t investing the time in understanding the do’s and don’ts of using Twitter. Thankfully Twitter’s management does a good job of shutting down spammers, but if database vendors are going to be selling lists of Twitter users to willing buyers such as PR agencies, then they both need to be responsible for understanding and underscoring acceptable practices for using this growing new channel. It’s critical that PR people embark on a real effort of self-policing how they use new social media channels to reach members of media or the blogsphere. Just as social media tools and channels are ushering in a new way to reach and communicate with one another, PR should seize the opportunity and turn a new page in how they use this new channel in an acceptable way.