For business leaders, Twitter proving a powerful communications tool

CEOs are increasingly seeing the value of communicating directly about business announcements, crisis comms and personal thoughts, says senior Twitter exec

Nola Weinstein

More business leaders are taking to Twitter as a communications platform for engaging directly with stakeholders, employees, consumers and the general public.

In an interview with PRWeek Asia, head of executive engagement at Twitter Nola Weinstein, said that at last count, the platform had 288,000 chief executive officers with more coming on board.

Notable Asia Pacific-based CEOs currently on Twitter include:

"We’re seeing more interest from executives," she added. "And it’s interesting to see how the same way politicians, athletes and actors have used Twitter to have a presence and engage with their fans, business leaders are doing the same as well."

Weinstein said that despite some concerns from curious executives about whether anyone would be interested in what they had to say, the fact remains that millions of people consume business news and content.

"And millions follow business leaders," she added. "What better way than to hear from them directly?"

Weinstein shared that on a personal note she was especially excited when the chief executive of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi, joined Twitter.

"As one of 23 female CEOs in the Fortune 500, having that access to what she’s reading and what informs her thinking," she added. "That’s valuable to me."

Taking ownership of the conversation

Weinstein said that the platform becomes even more important as a communications tool when companies find themselves embroiled in crisis scenarios.

"I’d say that’s one of the best reasons for executives to join Twitter," she added. "When there’s conversations happening without you, joining is one way for you to assert your voice."

By becoming the source, executives are able to properly broadcast to the world, the actions or position being taken by the company to handle the situation.

Weinstein pointed to a study done by BRANDfog around CEOs on social media platforms.

The 2014 edition study found that more than two-thirds of US and UK respondents agree that social media has become an essential aspect of PR and communications strategy for C-Suite executives.

Weinstein said that breaking company news on Twitter is also effective for executives, with the opportunity for that single tweet to be embedded and shared across multiple news articles.

"One tweet is more efficient than doing 700 interviews and the quote you provide will be different in tone, brevity and authenticity than a comment in a press release," she added.

In Asia, a notable example would be how AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes used Twitter to brief the media and the airline’s customer base, when flight 8501 crashed in Indonesia on 28 December 2014.

The face in front of the logo

Weinstein said having business leaders on social media "humanises the brand", with an active presence enabling them to become the "embodiment of the company’s values and ideals".

She added that common concerns raised by executives centre around security, such as protecting accounts from being hacked and ensuring that there are no apps auto-tweeting on their behalf.

"Also, if you are an executive in a certain position, for example of a publicly-listed company, then it’s best to check with legal and communications teams that what you’re sharing is in compliance," Weinstein said.

She clarified that it is not about have legal or communications people checking every tweet but to ensure that the company’s "overarching principles" are in place.

"If you’re in a system that’s not agile, that doesn’t allow you to engage on Twitter in the now, then that’s stifling, not authentic and not best use case for the platform," she added. "It is about sharing your passions and point of view on matters. It doesn’t have to be perfect."

Weinstein said that executives, before going on the platform, should inform their communications team so that they are aware and can monitor conversations.

"It’s smart practice to be disciplined and purposeful in the way you use Twitter," she added. "And it’s always good to do a ‘gut check’ with someone from the communications team if unsure about a particular tweet."

The role of the communications team then, is to help establish parameters and guidelines in advance to aid their chief executive.

"It’s also not good to be overly controlling of the messages being sent out by your executive, because as a communications asset you’re missing out on a big opportunity to build rapport and engagement," she added.

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