Porter Novelli

Almost everyone understands the power and reach of digital these days. Still, to see it mapped out, over the course of a breaking news event, is pretty amazing.


In the hours preceding President Obama’s address on the death of Osama bin Laden, online and broadcast speculation ranged from the predictably ridiculous to the surprisingly prescient. But on Twitter, one accurate tweet out of 4,000 tweets per second spread with stunning speed, triggering an explosion of retweets and responses.


As SocialFlow shows in a terrific study, Keith Urbahn, chief of staff at the office of Donald Rumsfeld, had the timing and authority to drive his tweet from his network of 1,000 followers into vastly larger networks, within minutes. “Keith Urbahn wasn’t the first to speculate bin Laden’s death,” SocialFlow notes. “But he was the one who gained the most trust from the network.”

It’s vital that communication professionals be able to accurately analyze and act on today’s rapidly changing influence ecosystem, and to intuitively understand how influence moves and spreads within it. Recognizing influence pathways and quickly optimizing them for clients is paramount to effective public relations. Often, the optimal influencers are not the usual suspects.


Public relations used to be primarily about access. Today, success is less contingent upon being gatekeepers to mainstream media—or digital media, for that matter—and more about being highly effective and responsive guides, leading clients to areas and outlets where they can have effective and influential interactions with the people who matter most to them. As we continue to witness, the influencer ecosystem is extraordinarily dynamic. To drive success for clients, we must be as well.