Patrick Garmoe, serves as content and social media strategist for PureDriven, a digital marketing strategy company in Duluth, Minnesota.

I spent 10 years as a reporter in the BT (Before Twitter) era. Now as a social media strategist and public relations professional, I’ve found Twitter to be my primary and most successful method of building and maintaining relationships with reporters. It’s brought myself and clients I work with tens of thousands of dollars in free press coverage.

One public relations agency I work with even grew out of a connection made on Twitter. And that’s perhaps the main reason I advise every public relations professional to become a regular. Just like real life, you communicate with a large circle of professionals, but the bulk of the benefits come from just a handful of clients or connections you make over months and years.

I consider Twitter the tool that delivers tangible value in great gulps, so long as you commit to it for a year.

Skeptical? Here’s exactly how I use it. This will work both for one-person shops and advertising agencies trying to build a following to use for clients.

How to Find Journalists on Twitter

  1. Find the reporters by searching through Muckrack or Media on Twitter.
  2. Peruse “contact us” pages for your local media outlets, to track down Twitter names (@name) of reporters.Be Helpful Especially When it Doesn’t Help You Directly
  3. Watch for tweets asking for help like the one below, especially on deadline. That’s the quickest way to strike up a relationship with a reporter.
  4. Monitor and post with the hashtags of the town or topic you or your client is involved in. Even if the reporters don’t post there, they monitor the channel for interesting ideas to create stories and nuggets about.
  5. Say something nice about a story the reporter wrote or aired, making sure you add the reporter’s Twitter name to the comment. When possible, link to the story.
  6. Retweet their tweets, especially when they’re linking to their stories.
  7. Offer to connect them to experts you know who you think will genuinely help them on their beats.
  8. Thank them via Twitter for covering an event you attended, especially if you were able to chat with the reporter. This helps solidify the new contact.
  9. Look out for story ideas for them, not just big stories but follow up pieces on stories they’ve already done.
  10. Thank them especially when they do write about an idea you pitched.
  11. Take note of something in the reporter’s Twitter bio when sending an initial tweet, so the journalist knows you took a moment to learn about them.
  12. Extend the relationship to other social networks, if they’re more active elsewhere, or get their e-mail – still the end goal.
  13. Congratulate them on their birthdays or other news they tweet about themselves.
  14. Highlight them on your own blog.
  15. Now it’s your turn. Please post a way you use Twitter to assist with working with journalists.

Patrick Garmoe, serves as content and social media strategist for PureDriven, a digital marketing strategy company in Duluth, Minnesota. He joined PureDriven in 2010, after 10 years as a journalist at three Midwest newspapers, and now helps clients both receive traditional media attention, and develop social media strategies and campaigns unique to their needs, business models and goals.