PR Lessons From Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s Chat With Recode

On the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 12, Recode editor-at-large Kara Swisher began a long conversation with Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey on his own platform. Swisher, the self-described "grumpy lady of tech," set a precedent early on that she wouldn't go easy on Dorsey, and she stayed true to her word.

The conversation that followed was not just full of news around where Twitter sees its priorities in 2019, but included several best practices for communicators about everything from automation to media relations and beyond. Here are some of our key learnings.

Twitter conversations are still hard to follow after the fact

Swisher made no bones about referencing how clunky Twitter's interface is when it comes to organizing a long conversation. Though the platform prioritized its ability to thread conversations by replying as recently as last year, this long conversation shows there's still much work to be done.

To his credit, Jack acknowledged the platform's limitations, and implied that his team was looking for feedback around the conversation as an opportunity to collect data on how conversation threading on the platform can improve.

Show, don't tell

Writing programs across the land evangelize this phrase, which stresses using images and scene to tell your story instead of just talking about things in expository or theoretical ways.

This phrase should also be top of mind when being interviewed and asked hard questions, as it serves to remind communicators that having concrete examples around the points you are trying to make will always resonate with more authenticity than vague explanations or general statements of intent.

Swisher reminded Jack of his own reputation for responding with vagaries early on:

She then reminded him of his tendency to give surface responses every time she wasn't satisfied with an answer:

Twitter knows where its biggest communication pain points are—do they echo your own?

Whatever your organization's biggest issues with Twitter as a communication platform are, rest assured, the C-suite knows about them, too.

Again, while specific details about what fundamentals could change these issues would inspire more confidence, Dorsey's above comment showed that he is certainly listening. It's also a reminder that while the platform is great for quick, sharable and topical bursts, its focus on short-form blasts impedes more nuanced, non-binary viewpoints.

To that last point, Swisher pushed Dorsey to acknowledge that, beyond changing the interface itself, the makeup of who is actually building out Twitter's innovations might be part of the problem.

Trying to solve all your business pain points at once is counterproductive—prioritize them

Swisher's question about representation at Twitter HQ followed a dialogue with Dorsey around Twitter's main focus—protecting the safety and welfare of its users when problematic content translates to real-world conflict. To that end, said Dorsey, moving fast to try and solve all of its problems at once was not an effective crisis mitigation strategy.

Transparency between platforms and government is nothing for PR Pros to fear

Dorsey seemed to have the most concrete examples of progress around the role that social platforms play in larger international crises. Pressed by Swisher to call out its biggest win, Dorsey celebrated Twitter's role in combating bad actors whose coordinated efforts on the platform can influence elections, encourage genocides, or enable other disastrous, real-world tragedies.

Dorsey's words on these issues will no doubt be re-shared to uphold Twitter's role in contributing to social media regulation. Communicators should also be reminded that any coordination between these platforms and lawmakers (like Senator Mark Warner) around regulation will only improve the user experience, and trust, in the platforms that hold themselves accountable. In the long view, perhaps those are the places where your ad dollars are best spent.

Follow Justin: @Joffaloff