Technology & Innovation

The Elon Musk Twitter Storm: Catalyzing the Moment

Kwame Belle & Lena Bell

December 21st, 2022

When the (formerly) wealthiest man in the world buys one of the most beloved social media platforms and communication tools of the last two decades, suffice to say it generates a lot of attention. When that new owner and sole decision-maker signals the wholesale removal of content moderation, rolls back hard-fought safety measures and significantly slashes the company’s dedicated workforce, it goes from a news story to one of the most significant digital organizing moments of the year. 

At BerlinRosen, we develop campaigns that integrate digital and earned media strategies from the start, to help companies and organizations reach their goals with every tool in our toolbox.

We typically drive results for our clients by activating around two types of media moments: those initiated by the media strategies we shape to center our clients’ demands, unique perspectives and wins; and those we amplify in reaction to news that impacts the well-being of the marginalized communities our clients represent. 

Elon Musk’s problematic takeover of Twitter led us to a fork in the road between the two strategiesand on behalf of our clients, we took both. 

The most challenging hurdle here was ensuring the speed and nuance to secure reporters’ attention to our messaging over the countless other statements in their inboxes. But our team at BR knows that tech and social justice reporters are:

  1. In a sprint to beat competitors to publish their stories;
  2. Seeking to gain a complete picture of what’s occurring in a way that comprehensively maps out their understanding of the situation;
  3. Expected by their editors to provide a balanced analysis gathered from trusted sources (ranging from company executives, policy experts and thought leaders) they have developed relationships with, while also incorporating their own expertise or that of their peers in the newsroom. 

When it came to the Twitter sale, everyone had something to say. We were successful in blanketing our clients’ narratives across the month-long media cycle on Elon’s policy changes for one reason: for years we’ve been developing trusted relationships with partners in the media, supporting clients who are leading social justice movements at the intersection of race, equity and inclusive tech, and supporting clients building the leading tech tools, who together make up the most trusted voices on tech policy and advocacy that you can find. 

Pick up the phone

When news broke that some of Twitter’s largest advertisers were halting spending on the platform (as urged by civil rights organizations), years of relationship building and thoughtful positioning of our clients paid off. We instantly became the de facto destination for updates straight from Twitter’s offices (via trusted partners) and valuable insights from respected racial justice leaders. We worked the phones late into the night to share up-to-the-minute details with senior tech editors and reporters to dish the latest on a series of meetings between Elon Musk and racial justice organizations, where they delivered sharp rebukes and outlined their grave concerns over the future of the platform. Our access to early information allowed for swift analysis and message development, which in turn led to broadcast appearances for our clients and features in major digital and print media outlets. Within the first 24 hours, we secured over three dozen stories. 

Cut through the noise 

Stories about a social media platform should center digital strategies from the offset—that’s why our digital and earned experts work in lockstep on campaigns around inclusive tech, to activate our full arsenal to move opinions and accomplish change on behalf of our clients. 

Our digital experts equipped clients with nuanced responses to a countless number of Elon Musk’s tweets that captured the severity of the situation and potential outcomes, while reflecting witty and timely narratives that were emerging online. Our social media efforts around this Twitter moment generated outsized engagement from followers, in one client’s case increasing impressions by 2000%  and attracting hundreds of new followers.

Our earned media and digital experts on our integrated client teams develop strategies together. Written press statements help guide digital content, and smart digital content and engagement strategies drive media relations and thought leader awareness. The agility of digital tools allows an organization’s leadership and spokespeople to directly reach their audiences and beat reporters with much-needed context for breaking news. 

What’s next?

As technology is increasingly integrated into every aspect of our lives and billionaires remain able to take over large companies without interference or oversight, our clients remain alert to ever-increasing dis- and misinformation campaigns and the rise of online threats manifesting into real-world violence, most often targeting women, LGBTQ, and Black and brown communities.

While the next major moment is unlikely to reach the fever pitch levels of Elon’s first few months at the helm of Twitter, there are a number of decisions coming down the road that will have a major impact on how we manage our growing reliance on technology. Companies will be met with new significant headwinds, including on Capitol Hill where lawmakers intend to reshape the rules of content moderation through the highly contentious Section 230 proposal. We are here to help those companies, as well as the advocacy organizations holding both the public and private sectors accountable to ensure that the future of tech is safe, equitable and inclusive for all communities. 

Any size or classification of organization can believe in a safe and inclusive internet, and if you do, we want to tell your story.