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Using Twitter for Effective Media Relations

By: Guest | November 28, 2011 | 
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Keredylowres

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.

23 comments
sociallouise
sociallouise

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.

stellery
stellery

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 :)

janwong
janwong

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

ToddBartlett
ToddBartlett

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

YasinAkgun
YasinAkgun

wow thanks for the tip about #journorequest!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

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.

smccollo
smccollo

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.

djsampson
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.

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