Building relationships with journalists is key to nurturing stories and managing your organization or company’s reputation in the news media. Twitter offers some great ways to nurture relationships with reporters and improve your visibility and understanding of what they are covering and how they work. Pitching a journalist on Twitter though involves several steps. Here are ten tips to help:
Tip #1: Build a list. When you come across a story by a journalist that meshes with the interests and topics you are credible on and connected to, check the story to see if a Twitter handle is listed. Or go to twitter.com and look up the journalist or media outlet’s name.
Tip #2: Know how to use Twitter. If you aren’t on Twitter yet, and not familiar with how Twitter works, you also need to get up to speed on it, before you tweet them.
Tip #3: Read what they tweet and follow them. You can often learn a lot about a journalist from a Twitter feed – reporting interests, interview needs, links to current or past work, and personal likes and dislikes. All of this is helpful information in nurturing a relationship, or at least avoiding annoying them.
Tip #4: Re-Tweet them from time to time. Many journalists post links to their stories or live reporting from what they are currently covering. It’s easy for you to re-tweet work you find interesting from time to time (make sure you include their Twitter handle when you do, and throw in the handle for the media outlet they work for too so their bosses see their work is being shared). I would not recommend re-tweeting everything they post, just something once every few days.
Tip #6: Post a comment or say thank you for a story. Everyone likes a compliment. Post a comment or say thanks for a story using the reporter’s Twitter handle in your Tweet so it will be seen.
Tip #7: Comment to be informative and educational. It’s ok to share information o that might be helpful with the reporter on Twitter by typing in their user name on your Tweet, but keep your comments informative. Do your best to avoid bellyaching jealously about not being included in a story or requesting a minor story correction. And definitely don’t harass them with constant badgering. No one likes to be sniped at on Twitter, and Twitter is public, so your gripes may be viewed by others.
Tip #8: Respond to a request for sources if you fit the bill. If a reporter posts a request for story ideas or a source on a particular topic and you or your organization or business fit the bill, respond to them. If they don’t follow you, you will have to respond publicly in 140 characters or less, so do your best to keep it short and on point.
Tip #9: Pitch a story on Twitter. Craft a pitch in 140 characters or less that references you, your business, your organization, and what you think the journalist should write about, and put the journalist’s user name in your pitch. Don’t pitch people who don’t cover the topic you are suggesting. This is no time for bulk pitching (mass tweeting several reporters at the same time on the same story). And only follow-up once on your pitch if you don’t get a response. Following up 3, 4, 5, 6 times is spamming and not going to get you on their nice list (it’s going to get you tuned out). If a journalist sees your pitch and likes it and clicks through to your Twitter feed, and sees you pitched the same story over and over to other reporters, he or she is not going to cover it. If a journalist responds and asks you to follow up by email, do so. Don’t ask for an email address that is already posted publicly in the journalist’s Twitter profile (this makes you look like you never looked at their Twitter profile). And another note: don’t pitch a reporter on Twitter to try to get to one of their colleagues. Just because someone has a lot of followers, does not mean you can’t stand out from the crowd if you pitch him or her. Chances are, a journalist with a lot of followers is pretty active on Twitter and going to see your tweet to them. If you have a great story idea, they will respond to you. If they don’t respond, and you follow up once and they still don’t respond, maybe it’s not the right time for that journalist to do a story, or not the right time for that news outlet. Move on.
Tip #10: Use Twitter lists to help you follow the journalists who are writing about your industry or topic. I’m not talking about creating a big huge list of hundreds of journalists in a given field or genre that you dream of working with. If you make the list too big it is unmanageable. I’m talking about building a list of perhaps 10 or 20 or 30 Twitter accounts that you are tracking. An easy way to keep track of the journalists you are the most interested in (privately) is to set up a Twitter list on your own account. Just check the list every day to see what is new.
Have I ever pitched a journalist through Twitter and gotten a news story out of it? Yes. See this example in my portfolio.
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 for publications and websites. She 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.