Sam Pitroda’s Twitter press conference just got over.
The man seemed well prepared at least the way he started. He had a video as introduction and another to explain why he chose Twitter for this press conference. He got himself a ‘best wishes’ tweet from the Indian Prime Minister too!
— Dr Manmohan Singh (@PMOIndia) September 24, 2012
Not everybody’s happy. Medianama’s Nikhil Pahwa posed 3 relevant questions and gave up calling the whole thing a ‘farce‘. He did concede that the responses to his questions may need a longer format conversation that Twitter’s 140 characters.
— Nikhil Pahwa (@nixxin) September 25, 2012
Without getting into what the press conference is about (not the point of this post), let me just get into some observations around the very idea of how this press conference was managed.
1. How does a conventional press conference work? A person/group that has something to share to its end audience (target audience) calls intermediaries like mainstream media (who have the power to reach those end audiences) into a room. Then the crux of the matter is shared. Media poses questions to get the perspectives right and finally report it, along with their own opinions.
Those opinions, in a way, dilute what the originally intended message was. The group that wanted to get this message across had to be content by working with intermediaries like media. In some ways, if the message is good (subjective) and media endorses it in its version, it bolsters the message too.
What has happened in Sam’s case is that he merely puts the intermediaries like media as just another group of audience. In a way, he democratized the press conference by making it a public conference where general public (basically whoever cares and is on Twitter) and the all-powerful media are listening to him side by side.
2. You may ask – don’t brands add their press releases on their website for the public to read (after a press conference where only media is allowed)? Of course – but Sam did not use a website. He used a conversational platform like Twitter, which imposes severe restrictions on the number of characters per tweet.
This means – literally, the equivalent of – Sam talks, short sentence by sentence, and as people assimilate what he said previously, they also ask questions simultaneously. If you were to imagine this in real life, it would amount to complete cacophony. Twitter, as a platform, makes this work.
3. Regardless of the rather limited number of Twitter users in India, what this press conference has done for Sam Pitroda is that it has helped him take his communication directly to public. The public will no doubt get to read media’s version later today or tomorrow (online and in print), but the fact that they (the public) were taking into confidence (at least notionally) for this piece of communication does work in Sam’s side.
Yes, I’d be more influenced by the opinions on this press conference by the people I follow, but I may be a minority here. We are living in a country where a 2 character tweet by Salman Khan gets 1,226 retweets and even better… 1,111 favorites.
— Salman Khan (@BeingSalmanKhan) September 2, 2012
No, that’s not an anomaly – another tweet of his, the very profound, ‘Hmmmmmmmm‘ got 744 retweets and 761 favorites. I’m beginning to assume that Twitter fan following and responses follow Indian voter attitude regardless of educational background, at least at the mass level.
Taking that into account, I suppose Sam’s Twitter press conference is a very clever strategy. Without getting into the merits of his actual announcement, I suppose he has achieved the purpose of reaching his target audience directly, while also minimally working the media. I see quite a few responses from him to media folks like Joji Philip and Yatish Rajawat, to name just two. The final effect of the press conference will anyway depend on the content of the communication, more than anything else.
4. On a strictly operational basis, Sam seems to be manually adding Twitter handles while responding – many of his ‘responses’ are not conversations. That becomes difficult for a casual viewer of this announcement through Sam’s Twitter feed to follow his response in context to the question posed.
5. Of course, Sam cannot respond to every single query posed to him – I’m guessing, with his 28K+ following and the fan fare with which this Twitter press conference was announced, he’d have got a LOT of queries. He did respond to quite a few and that’s not going to make everybody happy – a lot of people will remain aggrieved because their query was not addressed. But, for a large number of watchers, this would have seemed like a good effort, if one were to see the number of tweets with which Sam started the event and the number of responses post that.
6. How does media see this event? Do they like being clubbed along with the common man, on a public platform, while they have had a separate and elite plank to stand on, all this while? The clever ones in the media would have figured this out quite a while ago, and the ones who have not, this may come as a rude shock. This is just an ongoing evolution in communication anyway.
But, I’m curious to see if this reversal of media’s standing, by this online, real-time press conference, affects the way media reports it. Media is notorious for demanding exclusivity – and deservedly so, since they owned the eyeballs. In a lot of ways, that exclusivity is missing after this press conference since everything was shared out there in public view and media was a bystander. What is left for media to report is the actual crux of Sam’s announcement and most importantly, media’s personal take on it.
7. Can private brands start doing this too? Of course – Twitter is a public platform and anybody can try this. Unfortunately, the attention they get will solely depend on the kind of brand which is using it, its public perception and standing and its following on Twitter. There is a certain benefit for Sam’s agenda in that it is like the Government’s voice and we’re in a country where the Government loves to talk directly to its citizens only when there is an election around… or there is a dire necessity to instruct mass of semi and fully illiterate people to opt for an injection against a deadly disease like polio. So, anything the Government does to break that notion, even halfheartedly (like our Prime Minister’s Twitter effort – my take on it), will be noticed with extra interest.
Did you follow Sam Pitroda’s Twitter press conference? What did you think of it?
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