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Using Twitter for Media Relations

It’s no question that media relations is changing. In the past, it may have been acceptable and successful to simply post a press release in an e-mail or a fax it to a newsroom. But in a world ruled by Facebook status messages and Tweets, old school media relations is having a hard time staying relevant and producing results.

Not to mention how overworked journalists are (check out this post from Frank Krolicki about pitching journalists that are stretched thin).

However, there is still a lot of grey area for social network media relations. The practice is still in the early stages of infancy as PR pros determine successful strategies and journalists look for more ways to hide from the bombardment of flack on their social accounts.

Twitter is rapidly emerging as one of the most commonly used social media sites for pitching and attempting media relations. This is mostly due to how open the network is and how easy it is to follow anyone, even Oprah!

But, this does not mean media relations professionals can take the opportunity to fill people’s inboxes. Instead, the skill of relationship building becomes more important than ever before.

So before you head out and start tweeting, following journos and DMing, here are some tips for utilizing Twitter tastefully for your media relations goals:

  • Do not direct message a journalist. This golden rule should be number one on your list. A friend of mine from journalism school told me he is sick and tired of being hit with links to press releases and unsolicited pitches via direct message. This practice is not looked upon too favorably. So instead, just avoid it all together. Unless you are specifically asked to “DM me with ideas,” don’t do it!
  • Plan out who you follow. I am currently in the process of developing a strategy for the Walker Sands account. My first step was to talk to my colleagues and get a list of all the journalists they regularly work with. I have compiled this list, prioritized it and am slowly following journalists based on my priority level. This is the first step in getting the conversation going and starting with journalists who already know the name of your agency or company is a good place to get some early wins.
  • Listen to what journalists are saying. On my personal account, I have followed several journalists that I regularly work with for Walker Sands clients or simply am interested in following. Almost none of these journalists have followed me back, and that’s OK. I am simply following their feeds when possible and looking for opportunities. Most media relations in the social networking space starts by getting lucky. I have found that many journalists will post what they are working on or will be candid when looking for sources. Now it won’t happen everyday, but you will find journalists posting requests relevant to your clients (that is, if you have followed step two carefully). Take advantage of these opportunities to get the conversation started. If you help them out, journalists will typically follow you back because they see some value in keeping in contact. This is when you can use tweeting strategies to get placements.
  • No shameless self promotion. Once you have started the conversation and have some following, your tweets shift to central focus. In your tweets, you generally want to convey you or your clients expertise, write good headlines and make it interesting. Shameless self promotion has not once worked for me (i.e. “Hey @NYTimes, Client X has the best program ever created, you guys should be doing a story on it!”). Instead, be tasteful and tactful posting your story in a snappy headline. If the journalist likes it, they will get in contact with you, no need to mention them in the post.
  • Never follow up on a prior mode of contact. Twitter is not meant to be another place for public relations professionals to follow up with journalists. If you’ve already sent them an e-mail and placed a phone call with no response, don’t contact them on Twitter. If a journalist isn’t getting back in contact with you it likely means they aren’t interested. Go back to the drawing board and rework your approach and how you’re pitching. Don’t just lean on social media, trust me, it won’t work.

As I stated earlier, media relations via social media is still emerging and there is no surefire way to get results. These tips will hopefully give you a starting point, but it’s up to you to take your strategy all the way.