Connecting with journalists – how to leverage social media

For PR pros, there’s no denying the effect that social media has on what we do as corporate communicators. Since my last blog post featured tips on effective media relations that I’ve developed as a PR pro and journalist, I was thinking about how social media plays a role when it comes to pitching journalists and building relationships with them.

A survey conducted last year by the U.K. office of Text 100, a global communications agency, reported how 72 full-time journalists use social media. Results showed that journalists look at 2.6 social media channels per story on average, with company blogs being the best channel. The survey also discovered that Twitter is the most popular site for journalists (86 per cent) with LinkedIn not far behind (76 per cent).

Survey results were compiled into this infographic. Credit: Text100-UK

Survey results were compiled into this infographic. Credit: Text100 – UK

Therefore, when it comes to media relations, social media is great for connecting and building relationships with journalists. Introduce yourself to them, connect with them via Twitter or LinkedIn and go from there. After all, that’s what I use social media for: connecting with fellow PR pros and journalists.

But, what about pitching? Can you — and should you — pitch a story via social media or rather, let’s say, a tweet? I think you can if you get to the story quickly and succinctly.  Zoe Fox (@zoebfox) wrote a piece published yesterday on Mashable on the dos and don’ts of pitching journalists on social media. “Generally speaking, Twitter can be a great place to pitch journalists who are often very engaged with Twitter,” Fox wrote. “That said, many journalists receive a ton of pitches on Twitter, so be mindful of your first approach.”

As a PR pro, I haven’t done much pitching through social media (I generally stick to email), but as a journalist, I’m open to it. I consider myself part of that 86 per cent. Not only am I active on Twitter, but I regularly check my news feed, even for story ideas. You never know where you’re going to find something newsworthy. In fact, I’ve used social media to find sources for stories.

And in my mind, a pitch is a pitch. If you can communicate a rather compelling story idea, that’s what matters. To me, it doesn’t matter where it comes from if it’s a tweet, LinkedIn message or email.

But if you are pitching via social media, Fox identifies some best practices. For instance, “if you just tweet ‘Hey reporter, I have something I think you’ll like — DM me,’ you’re leaving the journalist absolutely no reason to reply,” she says.  “Try to include a link to some news or @mention the brand or organization you’re representing. An even better approach is to build a relationship through personal or funny interactions leading up to your pitch.”

And it’s critical to note that journalists do have pitching preferences. Some may prefer the traditional approach of receiving a pitch via email over being tweeted.

In any case though (this is the last time I’ll say this), social media is certainly effective for connecting with journalists, knowing their beats and developing that relationship.

As for pitching, whether or not you go down the social or traditional road, the same rules apply: doing your research, having a newsworthy story idea, packaging it nicely and communicating it clearly.

PR pros and journalists: please weigh in with your thoughts. How do you feel about using social media for media relations?

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