Using Twitter for Effective Media Relations

By: Guest | November 28, 2011 | 


Today’s guest post is written by Keredy Andrews.

The evolution of technology has moved the PR pitch away from hard copy press releases to the phone and email, but now reporters are busier than ever. Emails too easily get lost in the melee and when you catch them on the phone, they often don’t have time to listen to a pitch and ask you to send an email.

So how do you get their attention?

Over the past year or so I have been using Twitter to contact journalists. It’s not only an extremely useful platform to get their interest, but it also helps you to get to know their work, to create a rapport, and to spot media requests; all of which are integral to being a good public relations professional.

The worlds of the media and PR agencies are both fast paced so the immediacy of Twitter enables both parties to take advantage of reacting to trends and breaking news – stories can be imagined, written and published within an hour if it’s a hot topic.

One of the first rules of pitching a story is to ensure that it is actually relevant to the publication and the journalist or you will end up wasting your time and theirs. Research previous articles and their areas of interest and tell the reporter exactly why you think they will be interested in the story. It immediately demonstrates you mean business.

Following journalists on Twitter can give you additional insights even if they only tweet in a personal capacity because it gives you the opportunity to interact and build a relationship. Plus, as with any influencer on Twitter, retweeting can be a great way to let the person know you’re interested in their field and what they have to say.

To keep an eye on particular journalists through Twitter, I recommend putting them in lists so you can quickly view an edited stream and can easily see if the journalists relevant to your business are looking for a comment or are researching an article.

In my experience, if you can react quickly to a request, the coverage results can be excellent, and this, when compared to the effort of creating and pitching a press release, can be a much better use of precious time.

In the UK, #journorequest is a popular hashtag used by reporters to find interviewees, commenters, competition prizes, photo shoot locations, PR pros for particular companies, stats, and more.

Finally, here are three ways in which Twitter has helped me in media relations.

  • Pitch. “Are you interested in?” and “When’s the best time to call you today?” Find out if they are attracted to your angle and arrange a call when they are happy to give you their full attention.
  • Alert. “I’ve just sent you…” and “Did you see?” Use Twitter alongside email to draw attention to the materials you have sent via email.
  • Thank. “Thanks for your time.” and “It’s a great article.” You should always thank journalists because it costs nothing to be polite and it goes a long way towards building on-going rapport.

To conclude, just one word of warning: Twitter PR is as public as you can get! Beware of using the platform to spam or to sell in to the masses as each journalist can see exactly who else you’re trying to pitch. This will turn journalists off from using your angle if they suspect the news will be everywhere anyway.

Do you already use Twitter for PR? We’d love to hear your experiences and advice.

Keredy Andrews is a senior account manager at PR, social media and SEO agency, Punch Communications. Punch is based in the UK and delivers integrated services for local and global, B2B and B2C clients.

  • djsampson

    I have to say, these seem like ways to use Twitter to do old fashioned PR. Using Twitter to do what phones and email already do is not a step forward. In fact, the second bullet is the kind of thing reporters complain about when it’s done with email and phones, and understandably so. I would recommend instead to use twitter as a channel to have real conversations; to point followers to new and interesting ideas, especially ones that have nothing to do with your clients. To me, Twitter is like a hallway conversation at a professional meeting; an opportunity to go beyond typical PR work and take advantage of the groundbreaking –or maybe wall breaking–opportunity that social media provides.

    • @djsampson Hi, thanks for your comment. I take your point and it’s a very valid one. However, getting hold of someone by the phone or email is just not as easy as it was so why not use a different tool to build that relationship, find out their availability or point them towards a story. I find it’s the same with any medium, each individual has a preference for communication and sometimes it’s Twitter so I don’t believe you can rule it out.

  • Twitter should absolutely be used to build a relationship, not to pitch. Unless explicitly being asked for, engaging with journalists via any social media channel is to open up the door for conversation, learn about their interests and coverage, and then (after several time, and if appropriate) use a personal email (never even a phone call IMO-disruptive) and propose your idea. I never use Twitter to contact a journalist.

    • @smccollo agreed, can’t stand when people go straight in to a pitch with no relationship building or even an introduction!

      • @YasinAkgun@smccollo But the question is: Do you think it’s ok to use Twitter to call a reporter’s attention to a pitch if you already sent them a customized, personal email pitch? I have seen others do that and seems like it can be effective. Thoughts?

        • @JGoldsborough@YasinAkgun@smccollo Just last week I did exactly that and after a few exchanges she realised my email was going to her spam box. We both made light of it and also of the fact that I kept having to chase her…. now we have a better relationship and I’m waiting for the coverage to appear!

        • @JGoldsborough@YasinAkgun

          If done right, absolutely. The idea is that you already have a relationship built by the time you are emailing them anyway, so doing a double check via social media should not be bothersome to them. A cold email followed by an unsolicited twitter shout out may actually harm your attempts though.

  • ginidietrich

    Second time is a charm, Keredy! Sorry about the snafu last week. I’ve had a few very interesting wins by using Twitter to engage with reporters. The biggest one is that I have a weekly column with our business journal because of it. This is just about building relationships and Twitter is the tool. If you try to spam them, it won’t work. But if you build the relationships and do the work, they pay off.

    • @ginidietrich Hi there, no problem – we got there in the end! That’s a great example of how Twitter can help you build a rapport which results in a piece, or pieces, of coverage, which frankly could have taken you an age to secure in another way. Sadly, journalists are so busy and some of them now feel phone calls and emails are too lengthy affairs.

      I partly think it’s psychological because a few tweets can take longer than reading and replying to an email but 140 characters feels manageable when you’re busy, doesn’t it?! Obviously it doesn’t work for everyone but when it does, it’s great!

      As well as pleasing my clients with coverage, I see a big part of my job as assisting a journliast to do their job – if to get a piece published it means I have to communicate by semaphore (!), then I will, because (as with clients) it’s about working with/alongside others in the smoothest, most helpful way possible to aid a successful outcome.

      • ginidietrich

        @Keredy Andrews I’ve also noticed a big shift in where journalists are getting their sources…it’s in the comments of the stories they’ve already written. We do a big push with our clients on this kind of stuff. If they leave smart comments, the reporter typically calls them.

        • @ginidietrich That’s really interesting and something I’ll look into more. Thanks!

  • wow thanks for the tip about #journorequest!

    • @YasinAkgun No problem. I’m surprised there aren’t more of this type of hashtag. Such as #PRpitch or similar for us to use where journos can go.

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  • ToddBartlett

    As a graduate student studying Corporate and Organizational Communication I really enjoyed your take on using twitter for effective media relations.

    • @ToddBartlett Thanks, Todd. I was just wondering, do you cover social media communication on your course – I tend to think academia is a little behind!

      • ToddBartlett

        @Keredy Andrews In my media relations course we did spend a good amount of time on social media. Northeastern University professors do a great of integrating offline and online communication strategies into their curriculums. My specialization is also in Social Media and Online Communities so I will be taking five courses that solely focus on social media and digital technologies.

        • @ToddBartlett@Keredy Andrews Wow, I’d love to find out more about what you do in your specialization. We never have such courses here.

  • Very interesting to see how you used Twitter to build rapport with journalists. Are they really that approachable? Journalists here don’t seem to be that open and friendly here haha :S

    • @janwong I wouldn’t say all it takes is a ‘hi there’ on Twitter but it’s part of your communications tool box. I’ve spoken to some very lovely ones in my time but also some extremely rude ones!!!

      • @Keredy Andrews Ah.. so they are all the same 🙂 But makes me wonder though – why be on Twitter if they are not open to talking to new people.

  • This is incredibly insightful and I’m glad to have stumbled upon this. Will be passing this link around my agency for more social media-centric pitching strategies 🙂

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  • Great advice a useful explanation of exactly how you can effectively use Twitter for PR. I think sometimes people forget that Twitter is public and everyone can see what you are doing. It hasn’t replaced email due to the character limit but it can enhance it.

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