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.