Twitter Makes it Easier to Contact the Media…or Did They? The Pros and Cons of Unlimited-character Direct Messages

Aug 19, 2015 Keith Giannini

Last week, Twitter officially lifted its 140-character limit on direct messages. PR folks rejoiced. Journalists cringed.

Twitter has built its business on the 140-character limit, forcing all of us to cleverly get to the point before hitting the tweet button. This succinct and creative approach is also appreciated by journalists when it comes to nearly all forms of pitching, from email to social platforms to the phone. Twitter raising the direct message character limit to infinity may make the platform more user-friendly and enable us to communicate more effectively. It may even make it easier for Twitter to generate revenue with in-message ads someday, but how will it impact the public relations industry?


Let’s start with the pros. More words, after all, aren’t always a bad thing.

  • Storytelling—PR folks love to use words. Sure, we sometimes rely on jargon a little too much, but we pride ourselves on being storytellers and most of us truly want to help journalists get what they need when they need it. The ability to write longer direct messages on Twitter empowers PR pros with another channel to respond to the media, share information, answer questions and ultimately help tell stories that we all want to read.
  • Relationship building—Twitter has helped a number of PR pros not only learn about new article opportunities, but develop relationships with journalists through creative tweets, re-tweets and a steady stream of favorites. Personality, sarcasm and a sense of humor all come through in a 140-character tweets, so enabling PR folks and journalists to continue longer conversations will likely result in better relationships.


How many times during the past week did you wish someone used less words, either in email, text message, an in-person conversation or even in this blog post perhaps? Let’s consider the cons of unlimited direct-message characters on Twitter.

  • Attention Spans—A recent Microsoft study showed that the average human’s attention span has gone from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds today. While there are multiple reasons for this smaller attention window, the increasing busyness of our daily lives is certainly a contributing factor. And the media is busier than ever. Inundated with emails and phone calls, the media could retreat to Twitter for a breather. That Twitter “safe zone” could now turn into the next email wasteland, littered with product pitches and corporate partnership releases. My journalist friends are shuddering.
  • Media Un-follow Campaigns—Poorly timed, unwelcome or off-target pitches sent via direct message on Twitter are a sure way to get unfollowed by a journalist at best and blocked at the worst. As great as Twitter can be for relationship building with the media, it’s also easier for the media to control who can contact them using the social platform. Choose your direct messages carefully.

There are both benefits and drawback to Twitter’s recent elimination of character limits for direct messages. However, if PR pros stick to today’s media relations rules (as outlined in InkHouse’s recent eBook), such as focusing on storytelling and adding value, Twitter direct messages can be another great channel for communicating with a journalist. As always, common sense, a little homework and pithy, germane pitches (see related post on Mastering the Art of the One-line Pitch) delivered in any communication method is your best bet for breaking through the noise and building long-lasting relationships within the journalist community.

Topics: Messaging, Public Relations, Twitter, Journalism, Social Media
Keith Giannini

Whether it’s big data, mobile, application development, analytics, virtualization, data science, artificial intelligence or cloud, Senior Vice President Keith Giannini is dedicated to helping clients distill complex enterprise technologies into consumable storylines and thought leadership campaigns that resonate with key opinion leaders to move the business needle.

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