His Holiness is going social.
The Vatican has announced that Pope Benedict XVI has signed on for Twitter (@pontifex) and will start tweeting on Dec. 12. Greg Burke, a media advisor to the Vatican, told the Chicago Tribune that the papal tweets will be spiritual, and the pope will tweet when and how often he wants.
The tweets will be drawn from the pope’s weekly general audience, blessing and homilies on major Church holidays, according to the Tribune. The move begs the question throughout the PRland: If the pope can see the light about the benefits of having a Twitter account, can’t most CEOs?
Since Twitter launched in 2006, PR pros have tried to get their CXOs to participate in the social network, but often to no avail—with a few notable exceptions like Yahoo's Marissa Mayer and GE's Jeffrey Immelt. Many CEOs are, at best, reluctant to use Twitter because they’re not sold on its value in terms of driving sales and aligning with corporate objectives.
The pope’s Twitter account flies in the face of that philosophy. As the Vatican has apparently realized, leaders operating in a digital age need to use digital channels in order to cultivate existing relationships and start new ones.
PR pros can play a critical role in persuading leadership that having a Twitter feed isn't a waste of time. Via Twitter, CEOs can demonstrate to their customers and prospects that they are conversant on social networks and are eager to communicate via new marketing channels.
PR departments and agencies can assuage CXOs concerns about how to use Twitter by developing guidelines on strategies for the microblogging service. These guidelines can include the use of certain keywords and phrases (relevant to the marketplace) that spark interest.
At the same time, PR pros need to communicate to their chieftains that using Twitter is an opportunity for them to show their personality and express themselves beyond spreadsheets and corporate buzzwords. Otherwise, it defeats the purpose.
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