Speechwriting Can Make or Break a Social Media Strategy

by Gregg on September 16, 2012

News flash – social media isn’t new anymore. It’s embedded so totally into our society that having a social media strategy shouldn’t be a question anymore – it’s whether or not you have the right strategy. I think most communicators tend to view strategy in terms of objectives, engagement (or, as I argue, connection …), number of friends/followers and publishing content. But a carefully crafted strategy can be subverted by a slip up in a speaking engagement.

To me, this means there should be more pressure than ever on communicators to prepare their speakers for the immediacy of social media. Let me illustrate.

I was at a great Publicity Club of Chicago panel discussion this week about maximizing social media success. It featured three Chicago-area social media experts – Eddie Garrett from Edelman, Kate O’Leary from LinkedIn and Matthew Royse from Forsythe Technology. Before the proceedings began, the 100 or so attendees were encouraged to tweet their thoughts during the panel to @PCC_Chicago, using the hashtag #pccgo.

I did just that, posting 16 quotes and ideas from the panelists, including:

  • The first thing you need to do in social media is listen. Understand your business objectives, but listen.
  • A lot of times people think about the tools before the objectives.
  • With content, you ned to be helpful. With social media, you need to be thankful.

You can search the #pccgo hashtag to read everyone’s posts, including mine. But here’s what amazed me: I was simultaneously listening to the panelists, tweeting and carrying on meaningful discussions with others actually in the room, including a person at my table. It was like we were feeding off each other.

I’ve tweeted before at other events, but for the first time, it clicked with me: A speaker says something that resonates with a listener, who posts it on a social media channel, and it reaches people both in the room and hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away. The entire process takes literally a few seconds.

This is great if the speaker says something particularly insightful, but what if he says something boneheaded – or worse, fumbles through his remarks to the point where posts focus not on the message but inept delivery? Watch the Twitter traffic during the upcoming presidential debates and you’ll see my point.

A few seconds isn’t a lot of margin for error. I might add that several of my posts were retweeted by friends, work colleagues and even people I didn’t know – from all over the country. And the words I posted, spoken by the panelists (all of whom did very well, by the way), were exposed to everyone those folks are connected to. The reach was far.

Obviously, a speaker only gets better through practice and experience, and a great speechwriter can craft tweetable sound bites that almost post themselves. But that’s the point: Great writing and relentless practice will do as much to enhance brand perception as any key message.

There’s no alternative anymore. The stakes are just too high because they’re instantaneous and permanent.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Robyn September 17, 2012 at 10:55 am

Well said, Gregg. And I’m afraid you’re right – we have to be more conscious of what we say. The challenge is not to be intimidated by that. As you pointed out, it’s exhilarating to think that a new idea or great insight can travel around the world and be unearthed by those listening for it. These are exciting times!


Gregg September 17, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Robyn: Agreed. Another question is HOW to prepare a speaker for this, which I will talk about next post. Because I think we get into a few things that can be challenging:
1. Nerves on the part of the speaker, particularly one that hasn’t had a lot of experience.
2. A speaker that tends to go off script.
3. A speaker with his/her own agenda.


Sheila Allee September 24, 2012 at 2:01 pm

“A great speechwriter can craft tweetable soundbites that almost post themselves.” It seems obvious, but bears stating, especially now that audience members are conversing on backchannels during speaking events. Thanks for a very interesting post


Gregg September 25, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Sheila: I think it’s obvious to larger brands with the capital to be able to hire or work with communications counselors that think in terms of that. I think for the ones that can’t/won’t, ultimately don’t, to their detriment. Thanks for the kudos.

Tell me about your experience in the speechwriting realm.


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