172 J. Xifra, F. Grau / Public Relations Review 36 (2010) 171–174
The sample was comprised of 653 tweets which came from the following selection process. Four waves of 100 tweets
were chosen. These 100 tweets were the last hundred tweets published under the keywords public relations and pr before
the capture. The capture dates were: May 4, May 24, June 12 and July 16, 2009. Of the total (800 tweets) two types of tweets
were ruled out: (1) Retweets as of the third retweeting (recommendations of published tweets) to avoid the duplication
of classiﬁed contents, and (2) URL shorteners that contained the keyword pr.Although the Twitter social platform provides
access to search for messages posted through the keywords public relations and pr without having to be a registered user,
to obtain a sample of our study we used the personal Twitter account one of the researchers. We accessed to this account
through the computers of the Pompeu Fabra University (Spain).
Once the sample had been deﬁned, the tweets were categorised to perform the subsequent content analysis. The following
categories were established:
a. Labour introspective. It comprises all direct references to the vacancies and applications for positions in public relations,
be it in ﬁrms or freelance professionals, search for fellows or announcements of new positions taken up in departments
of organisations by new professionals.
b. Academic introspective. It identiﬁes both references clearly issued by students and lecturers, as well as information in
the university public relations universe: scholars’ papers, comments on subjects or queries on student tasks.
c. Practice. It includes all information sent out by public relations practitioners, either as members of a company or the
press agent of an organisation (the account from which the tweet is sent may even be that of the actual public relations
company). It also comprises tweets that refer to work by ﬁrms, such as allusions to public relations campaigns, expression
of affection towards certain agencies or their professionals.
d. Press release references. Announcements of the issue of press releases and links to read and/or download the press release
announced. This announcement, in most cases, tends to be made through the owner of the press release and the mention
“press release” alongside the link to access the information.
e. General information on the public relations sector. It comprises the group of tweets that deal with the industry, on
the state of the art or references to public relations as a concept, economic sector or important part of organisations’
f. The sender of the tweet and their dialogue with the community. It groups opinions and thoughts on the sector, heavily
marked by the sender’s viewpoint. Also @replies (answers) to other users involving the existence of a dialogue with them
on public relations.
g. Research (open-ended questions/surveys). It includes all requests and invitations to answer, or to involve all users that
read or capture a question or questionnaire issued to the community. Simple questions or questionnaires to be completed
on other platforms, but in any case, requests to learn the opinion of others on an aspect of public relations.
h. Announcements, reviews, events agenda, followfriday, and retweets. This group includes all tweets that facilitate
acceleration, transmission and expansion of communication between the members of the community. It provides
• Announcements and/or reminders, by way of agenda and alerts on the holding of different acts, events, seminars or
• The samples of the followfriday phenomenon, which consists of making recommendations to the people you follow with
the objective of getting the person who follows you to follow them also. This accelerates the process of the creation of
• The retweet is the equivalent of the forwarding of an e-mail. It consists of republishing the tweet of another user, under
our proﬁle, because we consider that it is relevant and interesting to republish it to our own audience, stating ‘RT’
at the beginning of the tweet. It grants authority to the retweeted User and socialises and integrates the retweeterer
This categorisation was made identifying the users, although the identity of those that did not identify themselves through
their nick-name was not investigated. These tweets of unidentiﬁed users are those included in categories e, f, g, and h.
Some categories correspond to the categorisation of Sallot, Lyon, Acosta-Alzuru, and Jones (2003) which uses con-
tent analysis to categorize the public relations body of knowledge: introspective (a, b), practice or application of public
relations (c), and theory development in public relations (e). However, the rest correspond to the idiosyncrasy of Twit-
ter, whereby they are derived from the search for the direct interrelation that drives communication through this
All tweets were coded by two independent coders to determine intercoder reliability. Intercoder agreement was 90.36%
(602 tweets) for the tweet topic. This process resulted in a Scott’s Pi of .894, the reliability coefﬁcient that takes chance
agreement into account (Scott, 1955). This falls within the acceptable range of .75 or above (Wimmer & Dominick, 2000).
A reliability check for the other variables was unnecessary because the coding required only careful transcription of each
J. Xifra, F. Grau / Public Relations Review 36 (2010) 171–174 173
Labour introspective. This category included 15.2% (N = 99) of the tweets analysed. Twenty-nine included the acronym pr
and seventy the word public relations.
Academic introspective. This category contains 2.3% (N = 15) of the tweets. Four included the acronym pr and 11 the word
Practice. This category included 10.9% (N = 71) of the tweets. Thirty-three included the acronym pr and 38 the word public
Press release references. This category contains 4.3% (N = 28) of the tweets. Twenty-seven included the acronym pr and
one the word public relations.
General information on the public relations sector. This category included 14.4% (N = 94) of the tweets analysed. Thirty-nine
included the acronym pr and 55 the word public relations.
The sender of the tweet and their dialogue with the community. This category included 18.7% (N = 122) of the tweets.
Sixty-two included the acronym pr and sixty the word public relations.
Research. This category contains 5.6% (N = 37) of the tweets. Twenty-four included the acronym pr and 13 the word public
Announcements, reviews, agenda, followfriday, and retweets. This category included 28.6% (N = 187) of the tweets analysed.
Seventy-ﬁve included the acronym pr and 112 the word public relations.
Cortés (2009) considers that the main activity of public relations carried out by companies via nanoblogging platforms
with the purpose of building and maintaining a positive image is the use of “the corporate account as an accessory or
alternative channel to existing ones to communicate with the press, clients or shareholders by means of the publication
of company news and activities” (p. 92). The results of this study endorse this assertion. Indeed, although the Press release
references category could be part of the Practice category, they were addressed separately depending on the high proportion
of these tweets with regard to the sum of the samples of both categories. These press releases fulﬁl two purposes: (1) be
shared with the community of followers of the corporate account where these press releases are published, and (2) be
properly indexed by the browsers through the key words contained in the tweet.
The results also suggest that Twitter has become an efﬁcacious channel for the dynamisation of the public rela-
tions job market as demonstrated by the high number of tweets of the Labour introspective category. This data are part
of the tendency in which Twitter is among the platforms where job vacancies and applications are growing strongly
Other categories with a great number of tweets are The sender of the tweet and their dialogue with the community and
announcements, reviews, agenda, followfriday, and retweets. Twitter’s primary function is self-assertion and the assertion of
one’s ideas regarding a speciﬁc issue (in our case, public relations) and the relational function between users that is inherent
in any social network. This relational dimension is clearly embodied in the high number of tweets of the Announcements,
reviews, agenda, followfriday, and retweets category, as one of the functions of nanoblogging is precisely that people engaged
in community-building around an issue.
The low number of tweets of the academic Introspective category is surprising. Eleven (73.3%) of the tweets of this category
are by students that seek information related to academic work or give opinions on their courses. Public relations scholars
do not regularly use this medium.
Although the Research category is not one of the most relevant, Twitter is also used as a research technique. However,
none of the tweets of this category is framed in professional and/or academic research. They are spontaneous questions on
public relations put by users to their community of followers, seeking direct interaction, stimulating interrelation.
With regard to the General information on the public relations sector category, it can be compared to theory development
categories used in other researches (Sallot et al., 2003). However, it is not a question of building a body of knowledge through
messages of only 140 characters, but rather of leveraging the potential of nanoblogging as a system for sharing information
with other users by offering links to websites, blogs or platforms with different contents. This is one of the purposes of
nanoblogging and of Twitter as a platform of this new system. This is why all the tweets of categories such as Press release
references and Labour introspective, or the references to public relations campaigns of the Practice category are links to web
sites or blogs that contain the essential information.
In summary these data suggest that, in public relations, Twitter is more a medium of professional use than a platform
which favours the theoretical development of the ﬁeld, at least directly. Its text limitations, however, should not be an
obstacle for disseminating links that lead to reﬂection and to the building of the public relations body of knowledge, to
which professional experiences also contribute, basically through links to other information media and platforms (e.g. World
Wide Web). From this standpoint, there are no differences with other disciplines and academic ﬁelds—Twitter is a good tool
for disseminating information about experiences, cases studies, ideas and new theoretical approaches. Similarly, the use of
Twitter for professional reasons in the area of public relations is not an exception versus other professional areas, since, as
Grau and Ponte (2009) veriﬁed, 36% of Twitter users say that they use it for strictly professional purposes. Nevertheless,
for self-esteem of public relations as body of knowledge, its presence as issue on Twitter is not bad new, and, at least, can
174 J. Xifra, F. Grau / Public Relations Review 36 (2010) 171–174
improve the access to new public relations experiences and opinions in order to monitor the discourse of public relations in
Cortés, M. (2009). Nanoblogging. Barcelona: Editorial UOC.
Grau, F., & Ponte, D. (2009). Twitter-vs-Facebook. In: http://www.slideshare.net/FGrau/ﬂash-research-twitter-vs-facebook.
Sallot, L. M., Lyon, L. J., Acosta-Alzuru, C., & Jones, K. O. (2003). From aardvark to zebra: A new millennium analysis of theory development in public relations
academic journals. Journal of Public Relations Research, 15(1), 27–90.
Scott, W. A. (1955). Reliability of content analysis: The case of nominal scale coding. Public Opinion, 19, 321–325.
Wimmer, R. D., & Dominick, J. R. (2000). Mass media research: An introduction (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.