Last Monday (4/21), the inimitable Sam Whitmore of MediaSurvey published this handy list of Old- and New-School media types who are active on Twitter.

I’ll re-publish a condensed version of Sam’s list below, but first want to pontificate on the shocking headline of this post: am I seriously suggesting that a PR person MUST become an active Twitter user if they want to have a meaningful career? Even though Twitter is supposedly still a below-the-radar service?

Well, yea, kinda. But for more – and more varied – reasons than you might think.

First: personal branding. There is no question that the managers and HR reps at savvy PR agencies and corporations are in the twitterstream. We have hired more than one new employee that we either recurited via Twitter, or, who had a leg-up in the process because we knew and respected the way they handled themselves online.

Next: knowledge. If you’re “following” and interacting with a bunch of smart people, you will learn more stuff; you will be “in the know” before peers, competitors, and clients. You’ll get first dibs on the coolest Web 2.0 applications. While your friends wonder about “that tweety stuff” you’ll already be twhirling and utterzing: this isn’t just cool-for-cool’s sake – these are the apps that will be discussed in the History Books of this era. Five years from now, you won’t be able to hold your head up in a newbiz meeting if you can’t claim to have been on-board from the get-go.

Also on the “knowledge” front: with your personal community established, I can’t emphasize enough how valuable Twitter can be when you need a hand – an idea – or, reactions to an idea. Twitter is an instant focus group, on-call 24/7, and comprised of some of the most brilliant and thoughtful people you’d ever want to meet.

Last but not least: relationships. Take a look at the list below. Twitter may not be mainstream, yet, but it’s well-known to the influencers and fellow practitioners with whom most PR people interact. Why wouldn’t you want to know what Marshall Kirkpatrick or Harry McCracken are up to today? Thanks to Twitter, you might know anything from “what they had for breakfast” to “how PR pros screw up” to “what article they’re writing.” With such knowledge, you will become a better PR pro, period.

Please note that I am NOT saying, “You can use Twitter to stalk the media!” No, no, no! I am saying you just might be able to forge a true relationship with these folks by interacting with them regularly, and in a purely social, “human” way.

If you want to keep track of our own twitterati, we’ve consolidated SHIFT’s twitterfeed using Yahoo Pipes. Check it out: over time you’d see that, yes, we interact with media contacts on Twitter – we’ll even throw out a “twitpitch” now and again – but, we also act like undercaffeinated goofballs a lot, too. (Cuz we’re human, and that’s finally cool again.)

Note: The ## after each name represents the number of “followers” each person had, at the time of the informal survey.

Victoria Belmont 14147
Pete Cashmore 6073
Marshall Kirkpatrick 2670
Ryan Block 2220
Amanda Congdon 1278
Mathew Ingram 937
Peter Rojas 644
James Kendrick 372
Dave Slusher 366
Natali del Conte 130

Stewart Alsop 321
Harry McCracken 195
Saul Hansell 82
Lance Ulanoff 35
David Lidsky 25
John Markoff 16 (updates protected)

New Old-Schoolers
John Dvorak 6357
Molly Wood 4710
Tom Merritt 3686
Leo Laporte 3045
Sarah Lacy 2308
Jim Louderback 762
Steve Baker 293
Heather Green 202
Owen Thomas 113

Living Legends
Kevin Rose 15738
Dave Winer 8084
Tantek Celik 3778
Om Malik 2401
Jimmy Wales 1835
Mary Hodder 1803
Kara Swisher 403
Henry Blodget 129

Gillmor Gang
Jason Calacanis 21224
Robert Scoble 20090
Mike Arrington 13777
Hugh MacLeod 5276
Steve Gillmor 1735
Gabe Rivera 1303
Doc Searls 768
Dan Farber 704
Marc Canter 632
Sam Whitmore 200
Dana Gardner 192
Robert W. Anderson 86

In the Social Media era, getting better at Public Relations means getting better at the Relationships, not the Publicity. Use a list like this one to start the process – and get back to me a year from now about how it’s helped!

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