Using Twitter to pitch the media

Using Twitter to pitch the media

A couple years ago I started to notice that certain writers and producers were much more comfortable engaging with me on Twitter than on the phone or via email. I’m still not sure why this is…perhaps they noticed my sarcastic sense of humor (which appears to be a requirement for a true journalist these days) or maybe they feel protected by 140 characters. (Face it, we PR’s do tend to go on and on…and on sometimes.)

Whatever the reason, we’ve been using Twitter as an effective pitching tool for the past year now. Despite the “real time” aspect to the tool, I’m warning you it’s not necessarily a fast method. However, if you invest some time you may find some huge payoffs down the road. Here are some simple steps to engaging media via Twitter. 

  1. This may seem obvious to a good PR but for the rest of you who like to send out pitches via spammy blasts it’s really important. DO YOUR RESEARCH and find the journalists on Twitter who are likely to write about the topics you pitch. There are some excellent lists:  Muck Rack has a good list, or you can try the Journalistics blog (which you should read anyway) or check out JournalistTweets for the latest media convos.  Wherever you find them, make sure you do your research.
  2. Follow them. Read them. If you need to, make a separate column in TweetDeck and just read their posts for a while to see what they’re chatting about…and with whom. Follow the people they’re chatting with as well.
  3. Once you have an idea of the types of things they talk about, engage. Don’t pitch them right away – build a relationship first. And don’t be sad if they don’t tweet you back. The media likes to “lurk” in Twitter. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been surprised by a DM from a journalist that I had no idea was reading my posts.
  4. When it’s time… maybe you’ve just given them a few #FF or RT’s or maybe you’ve exchanged a few friendly tweets.  Send them a tweet and ask if you can pitch them via email. Don’t send the pitch –  just give them a quick idea of what it’s about. Something like: “I’ve got a pitch going right now on climate change…mind if I email it to you for a quick look?”  You’d be surprised the reactions you get. I’ve often had the journalist tell me to pitch someone else…or even send it to the right person for me. (That’s golden!) Sometimes they say no, but tell me to keep in touch. Either way, if I take it slowly I can transfer that relationship to email and hopefully eventually to a story.
  5. On the flip side, if you get a story or are working with a journalist or producer on something…follow them on Twitter and let them know you’ve done so. I just did a little piece with a local newsman here in Minneapolis. We had a funny little exchange on Twitter and now we’re connected.

The main thing is to take it slow. I’ve been following some network producers for nearly a year but I think it will be worth it in the end. And remember,  don’t just value the journalist for the story they might do about you. Members of the media are contacts that you can use for the rest of your life. Just the engagement is worth it in the long run.

  • Rufus Dogg
    Posted at 14:15h, 25 April Reply

    OR.. you could work with a good PR person who has already built a solid relationship with journalists instead of embracing this out-of-control DIY culture we have. Do journalists appreciate having a few dozen trusted contacts vs a few thousand DIY PR people all trying to pitch their thing?

    Dunno, but if I were a journalist I’d sure hate having to cultivate and maintain a relationship with thousands in favor of a few. Opinions?

  • Chris
    Posted at 08:20h, 05 August Reply

    “Out of Control DIY culture” LOL Rufus. I am stealing that okay? The issue with twitter is unless you are a celebrity you just will not get the numbers of followers to trend enough to use it as a mass communication vehicle.

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