Recently, I was going through my twitter feed and something caught my eye.
Sarah Sanders, the White House Press Secretary had posted an announcement that President Donald Trump would be holding an open press conference at the White House that day.
Within minutes, there was an explosion of online chatter in the form of re-tweets, likes and comments because this was NEWS!
President Trump was going to address the media. Being the man that he is and the controversy that surrounds him, this upcoming event quickly took on an added importance far different from other news conferences. I am not sure if the White House Press Office directly contacted media houses to provide background/context just before or after Sanders’ tweet. What is notable is that the Trump era has elevated the tweet to new heights of significance.
As the current POTUS (President of the United States), Trump makes announcements or breaks news through twitter and if I am not mistaken, media and those who follow have created some kind of alert system or even downloaded applications such as TweetDeck to keep tabs on him. TweetDeck allows you to view multiple timelines in one easy interface.
Some of you may be asking yourself, so what?
POTUS has changed how real time news or information concerning US policy matters is distributed. Continuing a habit long established before assuming the presidency, Trump just tweets which often means he by-passes normal and traditional channels.
This got me thinking about our own news conferences and briefings in Uganda.
I started probing some of our seasoned professionals in the media industry, just to have a feel of what it was like in the bygone days. In our conversation, we revisited such things as invitations, hand delivered to the relevant receptions of the various publications. Then there were invitations through telephone calls, (that is if it was functional; apparently some publications only had one telephone). To ensure there was no forgetting, the invitations were often marked as ‘received’ and placed in a diary alongside a written notation by the news editor on duty.
Fast forward to around 1987 and the fax was introduced which became a fixture by the mid-nineties. Fax machines were operated by just a few media houses like The New Vision and The Weekly Topic.
Then there was the issue of getting to the venue where walking was the norm. Considering the times, just after the NRM Liberation War, transport was always a challenge. These circumstances by the way, laid the ground for those now famous brown envelopes which were introduced to compensate journalists’ trouble in getting to the venue. After listening to some of these stories, I don’t envy the communications officers of those bygone days one bit!
Thanks to technology, much has changed for the better. Communication is much easier complimented with a host of digital platforms. Probably Skype would be considered science fiction if anyone had imagined it in the late 1980s. Yet here we are!
Today, communication experts have a variety of tools to reach the press easily. Although PR practitioners in Uganda are still about 200 steps from pulling a Sarah Sanders stunt and attracting immediate traction to announcements made on social media, it is phenomenal to imagine a time where inviting media through social media is the 100% normal.
Clearly this is our future beckoning!