Twitch! Lessons: Reporters Dish on Social Media and Its Impact on Stories

By on Thursday, February 28, 2013
Want to know how journalists are using social media and how you can connect with them about stories? Welcome guest blogger Anne Singer, who summarized a National Press Club Panel called Twitch! (Twitter + Pitch)  that happened during Social Media Week. Anne Singer specializes in policy PR and is currently Communications Director at Citizens for Tax Justice. Her summary was shared on the listserve for Progressive Communicators of DC. She observed:
It was great because each of the six journalists on the panel had a very different relationship to social media and worked for very different outlets, so there were many points of view.
Ergo, takeaway #1 is there is no one answer, no one way to use social media to cultivate reporter relationships and there is no one way they all use it. But you all knew that already.
Takeaway #2 – Reporters love LinkedIn. A few shared stories about using it to sleuth out money-politics connections, follow corruption story threads and the like. Also, LinkedIn has been offering journalists a totally free
year-long upgrade to the professional version, and lots of journalists are taking advantage. So, I am not sure how this helps us, except you can expect to find lots of your favorite reporters on LinkedIn. And I sure have noticed many more asking to connect with me, too, come to think of it.
Takeaway #3 – Twitter and Facebook play different roles for them, much as they probably do for most of us. FB is still more about friends and family, Twitter is more work. They all seem to understand social media is a place where you share a little personal self to deepen relationships, but generally, Twitter is for work. So you can reach out on Facebook and make an introduction, but a pitch is ill-advised there from what I heard tonight. The one exception was from an NPR producer who is a social media rock star, has developed smart metrics, etc., and shared a few stories about building (very actively, methodically) Facebook communities around different NPR shows and issues. She views those communities as a group of experts/informants on the stories they work on, and seeks out individuals to serve as voices for the segments she produces.
Takeaway #4 – Twitter can be a search engine. I was really glad to hear this because that’s how I use it, too. I asked them if “following” someone on Twitter really means reading their every tweet (which, of course it doesn’t – who has the time?). So they explained different ways they browse and search in Twitter for (re)sources. One guy couldn’t stop talking about the value of the lists he builds to keep track of people who are important to him and make good use of his time online.
Takeaway #5 – Twitter and Facebook can also inspire stories. A reporter for The Root said a picture one of her friends posted on FB became a story she followed up, even finding the guy in it and interviewing him. Which is to say, it can be that random. Gossip, tweets from hi-profile people, all can result in a story or at least a blog post. (Yes, they all have to blog as well as write stories.)
Takeaway #6 – Twitter is not a “second tier” source, as one journalist put it. Like we all understand, it’s a new communication tool, and so was the phone a couple of generations ago.
Takeaway # 7 – Speaking of phones…. Pitch phone calls were described as “weird” and “intrusive.” A few of us flaks were talking afterwards about how that’s too bad since it’s the best way to confirm a journalist got your pitch. None said they refused to answer calls, just don’t really want or expect them since they are so reachable on other channels anymore.
Takeway #8 – Speaking of old school… I don’t have a broad enough sample (at all!) but based on a conversation I had earlier today with an investigative journalist at a broadcast network, and then what I heard from the CNN producer on the panel, broadcast journalists might actually run on a slightly slower clock and therefore prefer press releases and classic pitches over spending their time poring over tweets. Remember, occasionally a broadcast news desk will still even ask you to send a fax! You might have your own experience with this, too.
Takeaway #9 – Much as editorial page editors encourage us to go post a comment instead of running the letter to the editor we submitted, these reporters HATE comments responding to their articles online. One of them said it makes her want to quit journalism to read those. So, don’t expect the reporter to read your comment.
Takeaway #10 – If a reporter is on Twitter, we have no excuse to send an inappropriate pitch. They think they are open books and it’s our job to read them before we pitch – which, if you can do it in 140 characters, they welcome on Twitter, BTW. Also, use to learn more about their recent stories and to supplement or confirm what your database is telling you about them. And, to see if they are on Twitter!
Mostly I found what I heard tonight validating – hope it helps you in one way or another, too!
Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, a virtual and independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media advice, writing services, and creative design work for publications and websites (portfolio). Ami blogs frequently about media relations, social media, public relations and other issues. She also reviews books on her blog about public relations, nonprofit life, work-family balance and social media practice. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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