Marketing

#BrandsTalkTwitter - How Twitter became a huge part of ITV’s #Peston

By Gordon Macmillan
Wednesday, 23 October 2019

In #BrandsTalkTwitter we get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how our favourite brands’ on Twitter use the platform. This week it is the turn of the team behind the UK politics programme @itvpeston, which is presented by the eponymous political journalist Robert Peston (@Peston).

Twitter has always been an essential part of @itvpeston, which has its own #Peston Twitter emoji and has been broadcasting live on Twitter in the UK since 2018. Not only live but broadcasting on Twitter before the show airs on TV, and reaching a global audience.

1. What role does Twitter fulfil in your social media strategy?

Twitter is a huge part of what we do at @itvpeston. Right from the get-go (when we were Peston on Sunday) our Editor was keen to ensure that there felt like a genuine conversation was happening between the programme and the people watching at home. As we were live, we were able to show Tweets as they came in on Screeny (named by our Twitter audience). We even had high profile figures Tweeting in mid-show (including Corbyn sending a photo of his cat). When we moved to our current slot on Wednesday at 10.45pm, we risked losing this as we began to pre-record at 8pm.

Proving just how important Twitter was to our strategy, we decided to become the first programme globally to air live on Twitter first before our terrestrial screening. It was a big step for ITV but it has allowed us to keep up the interactive aspect of the programme. It also gave birth to the #Peston emoji, which was used over two million times in Series 1. Since beginning our live stream, we’ve had a lot of fun with the format.

We now fill the space where there would traditionally be ad breaks with specially produced content, which often takes a lighter look at our guests and the events of the week. Some of these have proved hugely popular garnering press coverage or being shared internationally. We’re still one of the few political programmes that regularly puts viewers questions to politicians of all levels, and we’re constantly devising new ways to bring people into the programme in an authentic, engaging way. 

You can check out an example live stream with the PM here:

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2.  How do you handle direct messaging from the audience? 

One of the issues is we do  get a fair bit of confusion between us and the real Robert. So when he does something people don’t agree with on a Friday we suddenly get an influx of DMs aimed at him. It’s why we made this handy explainer last week.

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3. How do you split planned activity vs tactical? 

As a political programme in 2019, pretty much nothing can be planned. It’s even hard at times to plan which guests we’ll be having or where we’ll film them. That said we tend to find our audience quite enjoy when we’re honest about the chaos as it’s a fair reflection of the unpredictability of the times we’re in.

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The show has various set pieces online, announcing the guests, the time and tweeting out the live stream. Beyond that, we try to respond as quickly as possible to events as they happen. 

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4. What is the most important thing to bear in mind before you Tweet?

For us, as an ITV brand, we always have to be very aware of impartiality and staying within the umbrella ITV guidelines. We aim to have a light-hearted tone and take a different approach to politics. But at the same time  we’re not dismissive of politicians and what they do. I have a print out of a poster someone gave me once, ‘Loose Tweets sink fleets ” , and I keep it in mind before sending anything. On a practical note, we also have two -factor approval for all Tweets. 

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5. What’s your most successful Tweets? 

One of our most successful Tweets actually came during one of our live stream ad breaks. It was a good example of using multiple Twitter tools at once (even if it was a tad meta). During the ad break, Anushka used her mobile to film Nigel Farage setting a poll for our audience using the new video poll tool. The Tweet was picked up by both the remain and leave groups on Twitter and shared by big accounts like James Corden and Dawn French. It ended up getting 3.8k RTs and over 17,000 votes in the short time the poll was live. 

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Another example came more recently. Every week we aim to clip up the key moments from the programme and get them out as soon as possible. We’re really big on being fast as not only do we get the best engagement as the show goes out, but also we’re aware of the fact that as it gets later at night, fewer people are online. Dominic Grieve’s attack on the PM also received over 3,000 RTs and was put out during the heat of the debate around that day in the House of Commons. 

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Finally, we like to ensure the programme has a voice outside of the night we’re on-air . Again the aim here is to be fast. For the recent Queen’s speech we invited our audience to caption a particularly  fun moment caught on the cameras and had over 200 replies and a 15% engagement rate. This keeps us part of the political conversation each week. 

 

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6. What gets the most engagement from your followers?

Our followers love when they can get involved in the programme, whether that’s through Q&As with Robert or by pitching questions for the guests. We also do well when we don’t Tweet what people might expect. The sort of Tweets that are arresting when they come from ITV’s flagship politics programme. It’s especially true when there’s an element of self-deprecation. Politics can be heavy at times, so something that can bring a smile always does well. 

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If you’re interested in politics, then @itvpeston is more than worth a follow. Great guests and Tweets from a programme that has its finger on the pulse of the nation. 

 

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@gordonmacmillan

Gordon Macmillan

‎@gordonmacmillan‎

Head of Editorial, Twitter EMEA