Gini Dietrich

Do Journalists Prefer Contact through Social Media or Email?

By: Gini Dietrich | February 25, 2014 | 
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Do Journalists Prefer Contact through Social Media or Email?Do Journalists Prefer Contact through Social Media or Email?By Gini Dietrich

One of the most interesting uses of social media, to date, is how it was used during the Boston Bombing manhunt.

Not only could you get updates on Facebook and Twitter – and follow certain hashtags to get the kind of information you wanted – you could listen to the police scanner and learn what was happening full minutes before they reported it on television.

It was such an incredible combination of traditional media, citizen journalists, and law enforcement, it was almost impossible to pull yourself away.

In fact, people were so obsessed, police had to ask the public to stop posting what they were doing on the social networks.

They were certain, at one point, the accused bomber was watching the Twitter feed to stay ahead of the hunt.

Breaking news on the social networks has become such a natural course of action, most newsrooms monitor what’s happening to plan their editorial.

The Hudson River plane landing. Natasha Richardson. Michael Jackson. Khloe and Lamar marriage troubles.

When Phillip Seymour Hoffman died, we all saw the news break on the social networks and then confirmed it was true when the Wall Street Journal and CNN ran stories.

Social Media vs. Email

Social media has completely changed the way we communicate.

And it has changed the way PR professionals do their jobs.

In the recent “State of the Media Research” report, Vocus looked at just how much has changed…and what has stayed the same.

A few interesting statistics from the 256 journalists surveyed:

  • When asked how they use social media, nearly half said to connect with their viewers or readers and half said to promote themselves or their stories.
  • Half also said they use social media very frequently when developing stories.
  • Facebook and Twitter, to no surprise, are the top social networks they use.
  • More than three-fourths said the most frequent way they receive pitches is through Facebook, but 45 percent prefer not to be pitched that way.
  • Which brings us to the alarming 91 percent who prefer to be pitched via email.

To their credit, Vocus dug into why journalists still prefer email as the main communication method from PR pros.

Why Email?

Some of the direct quotes were:

I don’t think people can develop enough interest and context for a social media pitch. If it’s longer and public, I don’t want my competitors knowing what I might be working on. – National newspaper reporter

Social media is conversation in public with the public. What I decide to report on is not open for public debate. Plus, it’s lazy. If you can find my Twitter handle, you can find my email. – National magazine healthcare reporter

I get ideas from Facebook and Twitter, but I prefer pitches by email with more information. I don’t want a ‘marketing’ pitch that sounds like an ad. In fact, that is usually a turn off. – Regional online business reporter

As Much as it Changes…

As much as it has changed, it still remains the same.

You’re building relationships with human beings. Human beings who are busy, who have feelings, who have interests and passions and hobbies…and who are more inclined to respond to an email or answer a phone call from a person they know.

Use the social networks to build those relationships.

Connect with journalists there, share their stories, engage them in conversation, learn what you can about them. And then pitch them via email.

It certainly is a lot easier today than in the old days when you had to pick up the phone and call every journalist, but it still takes time and effort.

They are on the social networks. They want to hear from PR pros there. They just don’t want to be pitched there.

Use at your discretion.

P.S. I’m hosting a webinar for Vocus this Thursday at 2 p.m. ET to analyze the results from this Report. I know it’s the same day as our webinar with Amy Vernon, but if you’re so inclined, I’d love to “see” you there.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

  • The reasons listed for preferring email are all very valid. For me, the key was the third point. Usually, you can’t give me enough information in 140 characters for me to make a decision, and if I don’t have enough info, the answer is no.

    Furthermore, sending through Facebook, where you could write more, is iffy at best. At my last paper an intern/entry level person usually is the one pulling stuff off the Facebook page. He or she really wasn’t well versed in what might make a compelling story for the paper.

    Interestingly, at the DNJ, MOST pitches were email by far. Second was phone, then social (Facebook well ahead of Twitter).  The same applied for just plain ol’ press release submissions.

    You should use social to develop a relationship with a reporter. Follow him. Tweet and retweet. Share his content. Say hi. Engage in conversation and answer questions. In this way, when you do finally email or call you will not be a stranger.

  • Plus ca change, plus c’est le meme choses.

  • JohnMTrader

    It’s an interesting dichotomy Gini. While I agree with most of what the report finds and the fact that a majority of journalists prefer to be pitched via email, I would caution readers to interpret this information in the context of their own industries and markets. For example, working in mostly tech, a good deal of journalists in some of my tech niches prefer to be pitched via social media, especially international journalists where things can get lost in translation via email. They don’t like email, they want short and sweet pitches and the ability to pitch them is often a logical manifestation of establishing and nurturing a relationship with them through social media in the first place. 

    So just like these articles that project the best times to tweet and post to Facebook, etc. people should be cautious not to broad brush this into their own markets without doing some due diligence first. And that’s all I got to say about that.

  • Arik Hanson had a blog post a couple of weeks ago with feedback from reporters about how they like to use social media. Most of them echoed exactly what you have here – social media is great for connecting and building relationships, but not for pitching. I would also add that social media is a great way for PR pros to research reporters and pay attention to what they talk about.

    All that said, this just goes to show that the old-school methods still work. That’s why I wrote about blog posts not being a great substitute for press releases. As much as social media and blog posts can complement media relations, they are not a substitute for pitching the good old fashioned way.

  • My agency specializes in marketing to people over 50 (baby boomers and seniors) so I have a slightly different perspective on email vs. social. Our research shows that the older you are, the more likely you are to see email as a social platform. 

    Perhaps in addition to considering the industry/market of your target (as John recommended), we also need to keep in mind the age of the journalist?

  • Yes social media sucks for pitching. Use it to identify journalists and stroke their egos a bit by sharing their content and supporting them before you pitch. That way they are much more receptive and warmed up before you reach out.

    Also there are only 3 main comm channels. Twitter Facebook and G+. Something I thought about the other day. Pinterest, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, WhatApp etc you can’t contact starnge people via those channels. You can;t even contact strangers via Facebook if they have private personal profiles. Good luck finding them. And I totally get the public issue of social media they have.

    Plus Social Media is disruptive while email is not.

  • JohnMTrader that is very interesting. Especially since competitors could be watching and steal stories.

  • JohnMTrader

    Howie Goldfarb That is true but it’s a risk that you have to take in order to get press in some facets of this industry. To date, I haven’t had one competitor snag anything.

  • lauraclick and points for using “complement” the right way! (not that you wouldn’t … it’s just so rare!) #grammarloverhere

  • This, this, this. Those three quotes from the reporters pretty much explain why, though I may follow and engage on social, I’ve always pitched via email. Along w/ the exclusivity piece and trying to make the pitch less ad, more newsworthy – it’s the customization. Each reporter, each media outlet wants their take, wants to do a story unique for their audience. To do it right, you’re going to repackage a story differently almost every time so it’s simply best to stick with email. And yes, they got – no need to follow up 27 times in 3 days. FWIW.

  • JohnMTrader  And ClayMorgan posted this on his FB wall earlier and some of his journalist compadres said the same…they prefer to be pitched by Twitter. I also wonder if some of it has to do with age? When I get a pitch via Twitter, I’m much more likely to respond to it than through email.

  • erinreadruddick  Ha! That’s exactly what I just said. Great minds…

  • SusynEliseDuris

    Great post. I was waiting for the 91% statistic on pitch. Yep, the journalists I work with want the pitch via email. It does make sense. You just can’t do a decent pitch in 140 words. So, not surprised in the least. But I do follow up such as “just sent you an email with subj line xxx” via Twitter is fine, according to those same journalists I work with. Agree with Howie (see my Spin Sucks post on related topic) that Social Media is great for relationship-building.

  • ginidietrich JohnMTrader ClayMorgan  While I don’t have a study to
    back my case, many of the journalists I interact with in higher education prefer
    social media. Among the reasons I have heard: it is short and to the point and they
    receive far few pitches via social media than email so the tweets stand out
    more. From my experiences, I note that Twitter is a good starting point and then the journalist can request more information to be sent via email.

  • LalaboyPR

    ginidietrich We really could RT every single one of Spin Sucks articles.

  • It’s not really the way PR professionals do their job that has changed, but the tools you can use to do your job. You can have all these new ways to connect to people now beyond email – or dare I say picking up a phone and calling someone (gasp!) – but if you can’t build a relationship, you’re screwed.  I think old-school relationship building is still king.

    I like your point about discretion. Every blogger and reporter is different and particular about how they build relationships. Research the hell out of the person you want to connect with before you pitch them.

    Good article. Glad I took the time to read it. Keep being awesome!

  • AyeshaAmbreen

    helpareporter ginidietrich SpinSucks I guess it’s Email most of the time.

  • PeterSurowski

    helpareporter ginidietrich SpinSucks We prefer contact via telephone.

  • SusynEliseDuris

    Oops I meant 140 characters.

  • ginidietrich

    LalaboyPR Ha! I wouldn’t mind that one bit!

  • SusynEliseDuris  I actually had that happen as you describe yesterday and it worked. It also got me to pay attention when I probably would have deleted it without the tweet.

  • 3HatsComm  I had never thought about them not wanting to be pitched on the social networks for fear of their competitors seeing it. Very interesting.

  • Howie Goldfarb  Heck, I feel like email is disruptive. There are days i have to turn it off in order to get work done.

  • lauraclick  We’re finding more and more journalists want to see that you can write your own content, that you have a community of people who are willing to share it, and that you have active social networks so, if they run a story, you can help them get pageviews.

  • audacious_amma

    ginidietrich SpinSucks I prefer the e-mail because it helps me separate the wheat from the chaff.

  • JohnMTrader

    kevinanselmo ginidietrich JohnMTrader ClayMorgan  I +1 this comment.

  • JohnMTrader

    ginidietrich JohnMTrader ClayMorgan  Gini I think it has a lot to do with age. Most tech beat reporters I deal with are 30 somethings or younger and prefer social over email.

  • ginidietrich

    audacious_amma That’s how I prefer it, too. And you don’t lose it that way, either. SpinSucks

  • Very interesting study, Gini! Thanks for sharing! 
    I honestly prefer email, too. When I contact people for interviews on our blog, I always try my best to find an email address. I only use the likes of Twitter and LinkedIn when I feel I have no other choice. 
    I think the reason for that is because I also think contacting someone on social media is relatively “cheap and easy.” But when you have no other choice, what are you left with?

  • You know what’s interesting, I’ve had a lot of journalists contact me through social media. Both through Twitter and Facebook, but I’m kind of a big deal so it might be different, it still would be interesting to see how often they do reach out to sources through social

  • BunyaadRugs

    kmueller62 ginidietrich thanks… exactly what the doc ordered today! much appreciated!

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  • LauraPetrolino  Right. Of course.

  • JRHalloran  And it’s hard to track and have a file of conversation. While I don’t love email, it’s certainly easier for stuff like this.

  • @LalaboyPR  I have to agree with you. They´re really good and entertaining, just like Crazies folks :). Yep, @ won´t mind 😛

  • JamesToddNC

    kevinanselmo SpinSucks Helpful.

  • sureshgaur56

    kamichat ginidietrich both

  • kamichat

    sureshgaur56 ginidietrich I think they prefer to discover stories via social media and be pitched via email

  • ginidietrich I stick with SMS text! 8)

  • ShadaS

    daywood it def made a change in our daily interactions… to debate w favorite writers… to pick their mind…Clarify some “why” questions

  • petrau

    gscreigh in my experience giving them a call is still the most effectieve way.

  • Bizitalks

    gscreigh By Phone! They are still techno-scaredy-cats!

  • InsideOneMag

    tankpr SpinSucks both please and a phone call.

  • tankpr

    InsideOneMag We’ll bear that in mind 🙂

  • guptaabhijit318

    The content was so
    interesting! Thanks for the useful insights. I prefer the e-mail because
    it helps me lot.

  • Pingback: Marketing Day: February 25, 2014 « TLC Niche Marketing()

  • JoshuaJLight

    Super interesting. I’m really surprised that they prefer email. I wonder if this will still be true next year?

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