What should agencies advise clients with regard to Twitter today? It has obviously been a very turbulent couple of weeks since Elon Musk took over, but what does that mean for communicators?
Chip and Gini explore this question that they have been hearing from many agency leaders in recent days. They emphasize the need to understand what is right for individual clients and their target audiences rather than substituting our own personal points of view.
There are lessons to be learned from what is going on with Twitter and how it impacts agencies and their clients that go far beyond this individual social platform. Recognizing the value of focusing on client needs while determining your own “red lines” are important things for agency owners to consider.
- Chip Griffin: “We are an agent of the client. Therefore, we may not love every statement we put out or everything that we have to tell a member of the media or every strategy that we put together, but we’re doing what’s best for the client based on their perspective, not our own.”
- Gini Dietrich: “You have to look at it from a client perspective and say, Where is the audience? What’s working, what’s not working? And then make a recommendation.”
- Chip Griffin: “Be clear about the difference between deciding not to play there because it’s a values judgment versus because it’s no longer effective.”
- Gini Dietrich: “Is it still effective? Can you set aside your values? Where’s the line?”
The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.
Chip Griffin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m Chip Griffin.
Gini Dietrich: And I’m Gini Dietrich.
Chip Griffin: And today we’re gonna talk about a little thing called Twitter. I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard of it, Gini.
Gini Dietrich: I have, in fact, a little bird. Yeah, I’ve heard of it.
Chip Griffin: Well, we’ll talk more about it right after this.
Gini Dietrich: Great.
Chip Griffin: So I take no pleasure in our topic today. None whatsoever. I would really prefer not to hear about Twitter and Elon Musk really ever again.
Gini Dietrich: Well, it’s, yeah. I’m sorry. It’s not gonna happen.
Chip Griffin: Yeah. I think unfortunately for those of us who are in communications and agency land, that’s not likely to to happen any time soon.
And I don’t know about you, but I’m getting asked by a lot of people, what should we be doing about Twitter? How should we be advising our clients? So you know, we’re gonna bite the bullet and we’re gonna jump in here. Of course, we’re recording a few days before we release this. So who knows what will have happened between the time we record this.
Gini Dietrich: It could implode.
Chip Griffin: So to be clear, we are recording this around noon Eastern time on Monday, November 7th. Anything that happened after that, we don’t know about it. Don’t know. Cause we do not have that crystal ball that allows us to see into the future. And if we did we would not be doing this podcast. We would be going play the ponies or something and just get rich.
Gini Dietrich: Or the lottery, since it’s over a billion dollars right now.
Chip Griffin: Well, there’s that too. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I’ve never bought a lottery ticket, but geez.
Gini Dietrich: Nor have I, but yeah, it’s kind of tempting.
Chip Griffin: Makes me want to think about it. Yeah. Anyway. Well, assuming we haven’t won the lottery by Thursday, which if we don’t buy ticket, it’s gonna be very difficult.
Gini Dietrich: Yeah. You actually have to play to win. That’s.
Chip Griffin: It turns out, generally speaking, that’s, that’s the best way to win the lottery is to actually play. Yeah. Um, so Twitter. And, and I think we can, to make this a little bit more palatable, you know, we, we can broaden this to how do we handle situations where there are things going on out there that we don’t like, and we have to advise our clients about how to handle that. Because we’ve got a couple of different things with Twitter, there’s, there’s some value judgment that’s going into the advice that we may give and our clients may perceive. And then there’s also the, the practical of, you know, does it still make sense even to be on this platform given the changes that are taking place?
So let’s take a look at it from all of those different perspectives. And where would you like to start?
Gini Dietrich: Well, I think the, I think the idea that there are lots of things that we have to advise our clients on, that could be a value judgment for us. You know, we, we try, I, at least most of us, especially be as agency owners, we try to work with the clients and the, the companies that we believe in, right?
But oftentimes there are things that, decisions we have to make that happen out there in the world, like with Twitter, that violate our values. But also might be okay enough for the client. So I think that’s a good place to start and then start to expand. You know, when there are other instances like this, like, you know, in, we were talking before this, you brought up Motrin moms.
So there are other instances, you know, where we have to make some pretty sophisticated and smart decisions or recommendations for clients that may not align with our values.
Chip Griffin: Yeah. And I, I think you made a good point there that most of us try to, at least as owners, work with clients where we share values and, and we generally agree with what they’re doing, but, but we also know that even clients that we tend to agree with will sometimes do things or make decisions that we don’t agree with.
Gini Dietrich: Yeah. It’s happened.
Chip Griffin: And, and so at some point we have to, in all of those cases, make the determination is this, so far across the line that we simply can no longer work for them, or do we have to suck it up and remember that, that we are there to represent, we are an agent of the client, right? And so therefore, we may not love every statement we put out or everything that we have to tell a member of the media or every strategy that we put together, but we’re doing what’s best for the client based on, on their perspective, not our own.
Gini Dietrich: Yeah. And I think that’s a really, really important point is we have to certainly, you know, there are situations where you should stand up for what you believe in and why you believe that they shouldn’t be doing something. You should do that. But you’re right that at the end of the day, it’s their decision to make.
So you can provide them all of the context, all of the facts, all of the figures, but they still make the decision and that’s left out of your hands. So, you know, from a Twitter perspective, There are lots of people leaving. There are lots of people leaving personally, and there are lots of, you know, there was a whole Twitter thread, on Friday evening by Kara Swisher who talked about all the advertisers that are leaving and they’re big brands.
So you’re watching this and you’re trying to, to understand, should we recommend our clients leave Twitter? Or is their audience still engaged? Are their budgets still working and they should stay? So you have to kind of weigh the pros and cons for that specific client, not just based on how you feel personally. ,
Chip Griffin: I think it’s also important for people to put things into perspective and look at all of the information. So even for, even with what Kara Swisher reported, for example, she didn’t report that, that people were leaving permanently. She reported that the advertisers were hitting the pause button. For an indefinite period of time.
Right. That indefinite period of time could be 24 hours for all we know if, if circumstances change. Right? And, and so I, I think we all, as communicators and as agency folks need to be careful about making declarative judgements about this is a permanent thing. And I get that there are a lot of people who are very frustrated and have canceled, you know, deleted their Twitter accounts.
I frankly think that that’s silly. I think as a communicator you probably ought to stay on the platform for now. We’ve got one week of data. Obviously it’s not particularly encouraging data either from the behavior of the new owner or what seems to be happening to the platform itself, but it’s one week of data and if we know nothing else about Elon Musk, he’s kind of fickle and he might get bored with this in a week’s time and go off and do something else and, and maybe someone else starts running the day to day of Twitter and becomes a more rational organization than it appears to be, at least from the outside today.
Now at the same time, I mean, one of the things that, that he is getting grilled for is the layoffs. And now the way he did the layoffs? Awful. Yeah. At the same time, we have news out that Facebook is gonna have massive layoffs. Now, presumably, they will not just lock everybody out and send you an email if you can get back in.
Gini Dietrich: To your, to your personal email, that’s where they sent it. Personal email.
Chip Griffin: Yeah. I mean, It’s a very strange approach. I will say that, you know, mass layoffs are challenging no matter how you do them. And I, I, on some level, from a logistics standpoint, I kind of get why they did it the way they did it because they were letting so many folks go and from security standpoint, you kind of don’t want people with the ability to muck around and if they’ve got their personal account, and that’s where you’re communicating…
I mean, I get it right. Still bad optics. But at the same time, a lot of tech folks are laying off a lot of people, so the mere fact that they’re doing a lot of layoffs can’t be your issue in my mind. Right. It can be how they did it, but still is that, I mean, is that really, I mean, if the Washington Post were to lay people off by email, would you say I’m no longer gonna talk to a Washington Post reporter?
Gini Dietrich: Right, Right.
Chip Griffin: Of course you’re not. Right. I mean, you and, and so I, I think that we need to be really careful as communicators that we’re not substituting our own value judgements for the advice that we’re giving to our clients. And for me, if I’ve got a client and, and their audience has remained on Twitter, or at least a substantial portion are still there on Twitter, I would be hard pressed to tell my client, You should walk away because it’s not for most clients to be the tip of the spear from a values perspective.
And, and for the most part, what we’ve seen out of Elon Musk has been bad behavior, but not on the, on the level of this is, you know, radioactive. Right. Completely can’t, can’t touch, can’t even be around. Right. It’s crazy. It’s just, it’s, it’s irrational behavior and I think you just need to be careful about substituting your own judgment there for what’s right for your client.
Gini Dietrich: Yeah. I think you make a really good point about if the audience is there, that’s what you should continue to do. We have a client who wanted to start testing Twitter spaces with a podcast, with an audio podcast and then release it, record it, and release it publicly after that. And we start, this was all happening.
We were starting, we were going to launch it at the same time as this. I mean, we were gonna launch it last week, so it’s at the same time that all this is happening. And I finally said, Okay, hang on. Our audience is on LinkedIn. I know we want to test this, but there’s too much turmoil right now. Right? So let’s focus on LinkedIn and we can come back to this later.
So, and everybody was, was fine with that. Because we hadn’t already built something there, Their audience isn’t already there. So I felt comfortable in making that recommendation. But the same client also said to me, he’s like, You know, and I find this really interesting, he said, Elon Musk wants to become the very first, the world’s first trillionaire.
So he is not going to screw this up. So he may be crazy and doing some irrational things right now, but he’s going to settle down and figure out, you know, if advertisers are leaving and revenue’s dropping, he’s going to, to sort of balance things out so that he can continue to make money from it, because that’s his, his personal goal.
So he is not gonna do anything to screw that up. So I think you’re right that we have a week’s worth of data. There isn’t enough yet. You know, I certainly am not from a personal perspective, spending a lot of time, time on Twitter, just because I think it’s nuts personally. But you’re absolutely right that you have to look at it from a client perspective and say, Where is the audience?
What’s working, what’s not working? And then make a recommendation.
Chip Griffin: Yeah. And, and look, I mean, I don’t, I didn’t spend a ton of time on Twitter before Elon Musk took over. I, you know, I’ve always sort of viewed Twitter for me as more of a maintenance platform as a place I want to have a presence because maybe it’ll be useful to me sometime in the future.
And it’s important for me to know what’s going on there. And so, you know, I consider myself a dabbler in Twitter, but I don’t – it has not been, and I, so I haven’t really changed my behaviors substantially in the last week because there was no need to. Right. I agree with you. Now is not the time to start a new Twitter initiative.
It, I mean, it makes sense to sit back and, and sort of say, Okay, I’m not going to invest fresh in Twitter. I’m going to see how things play out before I put more chips on the table. But if you’re already running some sort of Twitter communications campaign, even if it’s a paid one, I don’t think there’s an immediate need to back out. And frankly, some of the stories about the large advertisers who were backing out because their personal friends who were running things at Twitter have been laid off… that seems dumb to me too. Like, I mean, if, if I don’t lose confidence in a vendor, typically because my sales rep has left. Right.
Gini Dietrich: I think it depends. I think it depends, for sure.
Chip Griffin: I mean, the bottom line is if I’m, when it comes to advertising, if I am advertising and I’m still reaching the people that I want to reach and they’re still taking the action that I want them to take, I don’t really care who’s taking my order. And oh, by the way, most of what they’re doing is electronic anyway.
Gini Dietrich: Fair. But I think some of the big brands are leaving because they had, Musk had a meeting with all of them and was rude and dismissive, and they were like, Okay, well let’s show you. I mean, they are, they are the ones with the power. They’re like, Okay, well let us show you what happens when you’re, when you treat us this way.
And they all put it on pause. And then he tweeted that his revenue’s down, and he blamed it on activist groups. So, you know, I think there’s some of that too, where he’s just been completely rude and they’re like, Yeah, we don’t have to put up with this, so we’re gonna put this on hold.
Chip Griffin: But so, so big advertisers do have power.
I think they believe they have far more power than they actually do because they, they need, I mean, they spend money all over the place, right? So for them shutting off Twitter is probably inconsequential in the whole scheme of the, the spend that they do on advertising across all sorts of different platforms and media, et cetera.
Most of the folks that, everyone listening to this show, most of the, the clients just don’t have that kind of spend. They, so they are focused in much more narrow areas. And if Twitter is one of those areas, giving it up is a much bigger deal than say, for a Proctor and Gamble to say, Yeah, we’re not gonna play on Twitter anymore.
Sure, of course. Right? I mean, who cares? And, and I, But I think that the big brands overestimate their power because they still do need the platforms and the audiences. So, You know, I think that, that there’s some, some wrong here on both sides. I think that if I’m trying to, I mean, how many times in the course of your career have you had to deal with a reporter or editor who’s arrogant and intolerable and all that?
Sure. You do because you have to. Right, right, right. And, and, and to some extent I think that, that we as communicators need to learn to, to not worry so much about that and just say, Okay, how do we, how do we move ahead here? Whether it’s a platform that we don’t love or something like that. Now, I think we also need to be watching what goes on here and figuring out what that audience is doing.
Because I referenced that earlier. And so if the audience leaves, then we should be advising our clients, right, to follow that audience. Correct. And there’s been some discussion of this in the Spin Sucks community as well. Where is the audience headed next? Except it’s really not the question. It really wasn’t, whereas the audience headed next, it’s where should we go next?
Gini Dietrich: Where should we go next? Right.
Chip Griffin: Which is cart before the horse. You need to follow the audience. And so you need to ask where is the audience going? And I don’t care what some, you know, hot new platform is and all that. I mean, we’ve seen how all that worked out for folks who pursued Clubhouse a year and a half ago.
I hope they’re enjoying talking to themselves in the ether. Because that’s what it turned out to be, basically.
Gini Dietrich: Yeah, I was, Yep.
Chip Griffin: Follow the audience.
Gini Dietrich: That did not work.
Chip Griffin: If the audience moves and, and the problem is that as much as there are these other social platforms, none of them are quite like Twitter, right?
In terms of the critical mass, in terms of the style of communications. Right? And so where are those people gonna go? I don’t think there’s anybody listening to this who knows for sure where the audience would head if they do give up on Twitter. And we also have to keep in mind, frankly, we all spend way more time worrying about what Elon Musk says or does than most of the Twitter users out there.
Gini Dietrich: I will say though, that my sister, who is not in this world at all, asked me about it on Friday. My mom, who’s not in this world at all, was like, what is happening with this thing with Twitter and Elon Musk? And, you know, So it is hitting, but it, you’re right. No, nobody worries about it like we do.
Chip Griffin: But are they regular… are those relatives regular Twitter users today?
Gini Dietrich: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Okay.
But they’re not in our sphere. Right? They’re not in marketing. They’re not in communications. Right. Yeah. So they’re not paying attention like we do.
Chip Griffin: Right. And. So I, I think we need to be careful about assuming that people are going to run away because of this, that, or the other thing.
I mean, there are people who two years ago were like, You know, everybody’s gonna leave Facebook.
Gini Dietrich: Everyone’s gonna leave Facebook.
Chip Griffin: I’m done Facebook. How’s that working out for you? Right. I mean, I don’t love Facebook either, but I don’t have a better place to stay in touch with family and friends that conveniently, so Right.
Until and unless that happens. Yeah. I’ll still be there. Yeah. And so will most people.
So, I mean, it just, I think that, that as communicators, we owe our clients the service of, of thinking more objectively to the extent that that’s possible, right? And that doesn’t mean that there aren’t red lines that that shouldn’t be crossed by us, shouldn’t be crossed by our clients. But we have to understand what’s a red line versus what’s just really annoying and painful.
They’re not the same thing.
Gini Dietrich: It’s right. If it’s you, you’re right. You have to look at it objectively and you have to say, Okay, I’m gonna set my values aside on this and, and say, Okay, what is the best thing for this client, for their organization? And if it’s to stay on Twitter, you know, to, to your point earlier, we only have a week’s worth of data.
Like, let’s, you know, kind of ride it out and see what happens.
Chip Griffin: Right. And, and perhaps I have the advantage or disadvantage that I came from the world of public affairs. And so oftentimes you’re working with clients who you don’t agree with them on everything. Right. I mean, you know, and, and some of them become issues that you just, they are those bright line issues that you’re just like, I’m not gonna work on that.
I’d rather resign the account. But most of them are more like, no, intellectually that’s not, that’s not how I would vote on that particular issue if I was in Congress. Right. But it’s your job to go out there and, and zealously advocate for whatever your client’s position is. That’s what you’re getting paid to do.
Gini Dietrich: That’s right. That’s what you’re getting paid to do.
Chip Griffin: Again, I, I think we, in the agency world, we often lose track of the word agent in there. And, and I think that as much as we may not love that, and we may want to think of ourselves as consultants, or experts or those kinds of things. We’re agents. Yeah. That’s, that’s what we’re getting paid to do. And so we need to be thinking what’s in the best interest of the client and, and not what makes us squeamish or what makes us unhappy.
Gini Dietrich: That’s right.
And you’re right, there are red lines for sure. You know? Absolutely. If there’s something…
Chip Griffin: And for all I know between now and when this episode airs Elon Musk will cross one of those red lines.
Gini Dietrich: That very well could happen .
Chip Griffin: It certainly would not surprise me.
Gini Dietrich: It would not surprise me either.
Chip Griffin: Not at all. Not even a little bit.
Gini Dietrich: And then you could just ignore this whole thing and blow up Twitter.
Chip Griffin: Exactly. Exactly. Feel free. And, and for some of you maybe that, maybe that red line has already been crossed, right? For some of you, maybe there is something here that, that, for you. You just can’t do it. But you need to make sure that, that you’re being clear with your client, that you’ve made a personal judgment on that, and they need to still understand that perhaps their audience is there.
You don’t believe that, that just that even with that, that you should be participating and maybe you even advise them. I don’t think you should be either, but you should be clear about the difference between deciding not to play there because it’s a values judgment versus because it’s no longer effective. And that line that it’s getting too blurry in a lot of what I’m seeing in the agency community right now between the value and the effectiveness.
Gini Dietrich: Yep. That’s solid. Is it still effective? Can you set aside your values? Where’s the line? I think that’s, That’s really smart right there.
Chip Griffin: And as always, it depends. So…
Gini Dietrich: It does , right.
Chip Griffin: We can’t give you the answer
Gini Dietrich: Yes, it does,
Chip Griffin: but hopefully this will at least cause you to think a little more critically.
When it, whether it’s Twitter or some other issue that comes on down the line because these things seem to pop up on a fairly regular basis and frankly an increasing regular basis these days. But with that, we will draw this episode to a close. We’re gonna draw the red line and say, this is the end of this episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast.
Gini Dietrich: Wow. That was, That was nice. That was a good segue.
Chip Griffin: Thank you.
I’m Chip Griffin.
Gini Dietrich: I’m Gini Dietrich
Chip Griffin: and it depends.