This post from Andy Baio is a great insight into various hidden features on Twitter.

Despite Andy calling it ‘Stupid tricks…’ I’ve gone back a few times trying to articulate how one of the features might be useful for comms teams.

Here goes.

If you are running a campaign, or making an announcement, you may want to get the attention of a group of different people at the same time: for example journalists or bloggers. You may not have their contact details, just a Twitter account. They don’t follow you, so you can’t DM.

A lot of people (me included) are tempted to publish a load of the same tweets in quick succession, directed at different people.

This doesn’t look great, because if a follower of yours also follows some of your recipients (highly likely in the case of, say, a Government department and related stakeholders), their timeline will fill up with your @ messages.

Your recipients might also notice that you are sending the same message over and over to different people.

What if there was a way you could contact different people with the same tweet, without those tweets appearing in your timeline, or anyone else’s apart from the individual you are addressing? Well, there is a way.

  • While logged in to whichever account you wish to use, go to
  • Start the process for creating a new ad campaign, and select Twitter engagements
  • Go to the Compose panel and write your tweet, mentioning the person you wish to target. Hit the tweet button.Twitter business compose panel
  • Your tweet has been published, but only you and your recipient can see it. It won’t appear in your timeline and no one else can see it, unless the recipient replies, at which point the conversation is public again.
  • No need to continue building the campaign. A record of who you have tweeted in this way will build on the right hand side of the screen.

I wouldn’t normally endorse this kind of approach, of course. You need to put the effort into relationships in good time, and not rely on a random tweet that will encourage someone to write about your story, or change their behaviour. But we’ve all been on deadline and eager to get people’s attention. In these circumstances this might just work for you.

I’ve always been a morning person. Coffee, breakfast, jump on the bike or on the train, and get going for the day ahead. Partly this is due to the way I was brought up, and partly reflecting the energy of some of the inspiring people I have worked with in the past 15 years.

Since joining Helpful I’m even more of a morning person. I am generally pretty excited about getting on with a to-do list that never seems to get any shorter, but is packed full of interesting and varied work. Mixing the challenges of growing a small business, winning new work and delivering projects (training, web builds and strategic support) seems a pretty perfect mix of activities to me.

It isn’t without challenges though. I’m on a steep learning curve when it comes to project management, having spent five years dealing with work that has either felt very reactive, or extremely drawn out. None of our projects come with the luxury of protracted timescales, or rarely with the immediacy of ‘just get it done’ – clients want to be involved, and make decisions. Honestly: I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In fact, the pipeline of new work has been so full at times that we’ve made some tough choices about only working with clients who want to be involved and learn. Providing endless routine support or maintenance to organisations that don’t really care about their own capability isn’t a business I or any of my colleagues want to be in.

A new job is also a great time to make some tweaks to working habits too. I’m working even less in email than ever before, which is brilliant for me and probably frustrating for everyone else. The Business is GREAT itch finally won and I bought a Brompton. London has opened up for me in a way I never thought possible. I’m a little more fit and much of the aggravation of public transport has gone. And with such a mix of sectors and types of project each day, my reading has changed for the better. I can dip in and out of the echo chambers of old, while freeing up time to find out how digital works in all sorts of other organisations and territories.Scotrail sleeper from a moving window

Crucially, as well as learning a lot, I also feel able to apply lots of experience and put a few old ghosts to rest too. In particular, digital in press office. More on that another time.

Finally, I couldn’t write about my first six months at Helpful without mentioning the sleeper train. We’ve been working in Scotland at various times and used the sleeper to make the most of busy schedules. I am a total convert to the faded glamour and practicality. Rubbery egg and Euston station never seemed so appealing as they do now.

Image courtesy of

A modern communications team, capability, leadership and, of course, digital. All important strands, among others, in the latest improvement program for the Government Communication Service (GCS).

If GCS is to continue learning and improving, those leaders who are not already hands-on with digital need to quickly adapt, and those who are already of the internet need to make sure valuable (sometimes tough) lessons are being learned.

We often find ourselves asking senior teams to take a long, hard look at their own understanding of digital. These are the ten questions we are asking communications leaders in departments and agencies, to ask of themselves:

1. Do I use digital regularly as part of my work, beyond reading Twitter?

2. Have I personally asked Ministers/CEOs/organisation heads if they would like to see online coverage included in media reports?

3. Do I receive clear evaluation of digital communications activity, showing what has and has not worked, and how this has contributed to communications objectives?

4. Do I understand enough about how our audiences access and share information online?

5. How will I help the organisation get beyond broadcast every day, and be part of the conversation online?

6. Are all the people who I manage clear on the digital competencies identified within GCS?

7. Who are those people in my team who naturally use digital as part of their work?

8. Am I regularly signposting the social media guidance for civil servants to my team?

9. How often do I encourage my team to experiment with digital, and share their experiences and evaluation with GCS?

10. Does my team blog publicly about how they have applied digital in their campaigns, successfully or otherwise?

If it takes more than a few seconds to answer any of these, then there is plenty of mileage left to properly embed digital – and it falls to everyone, including the leaders.


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