Canadian Interview: Shawn Hall

Telus recently joined the growing number of Canadian companies using Twitter. And as Telus' senior communications manager Shawn Hall tells PRWeek, more of corporate Canada should take advantage of Twitter's immediacy—as well as other social media tools like wikis.

Telus recently joined the growing number of Canadian companies using Twitter. And as Telus senior communications manager Shawn Hall tells PRWeek, more of corporate Canada should take advantage of Twitter's immediacy—as well as other social media tools like wikis.

When did you first start using Twitter?
About six to eight weeks ago. I started after a technology reporter suggested I take a look. I signed up and immediately found that there was already a young but vibrant dialogue happening amongst PR and journalist-types within Vancouver on Twitter. The conversation really ranges in subject matter, but they Twitter about the latest stories as well as interesting developments that maybe didn't make it into their stories. And they include links to the stuff they are working on. So rather than flipping through the newspaper, I am actually able to get on Twitter and read up on what is grabbing people's attention and read the stories using links. I am also president of CPRS Vancouver, and there is a real interesting dialogue going on about PR practices—people take note of glitches and issues in PR, and when there are media layoffs.

What makes Twitter unique versus other social media tools?
What I particularly like about Twitter is its opt-in, opt-out nature.  People follow me only if they are really interested in what I have to say. If I get out there and shamelessly pitch Telus and drive nothing but Telus news, I could quickly find myself down to a few followers. [The morning of the interview, Hall had 229 followers.] It is self-regulating, by that nature. That said, I work for a large enough organization in Telus that people are really interested in what we're up to. Getting a little information out there about what we're doing—as opposed to pitching it—is appreciated. You have to have a good sense of what people are interested in, and do a little bit of self editing.

What did you make of Bell Mobility's Twitter miscommunication?
To be really effective as a PR team, you can't have every individual covering off everything. But you have to be up-to-the-moment on what is out there and how people are communicating about your organization. And Twitter is an important part of that. You need that level of information, because without it, you're blind.

What other social media tools is Telus taking advantage of?

We have many internal wikis and blogs. The real advantage of them is that when you have a big group of busy people working on something, you can really shorten up the time that everyone has to invest in a project. We just completed a SAP upgrade, completely on a wiki. There were 15, 500 entries, and 50 different team members from various parts of the company. So rather than a series of meetings, people could just go in and build on their part, whether that was actual programming or updating the education section. This way, people could get up to speed and move on. That is isn't to say that face-to-face meetings aren't important, because they are still critically important, but wikis give you another way of doing things that will in some projects work better than the old way. The challenge with wikis, as with any new technology, is people will try to use it for everything, and over time we'll figure what it works for and what it doesn't.

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