For the last hunded or so years, crafting and sending a formal press release, now more commonly referred to as
a media release or news release, was the best -- if not the only -- way to attract the attention of the media. Not any longer. Now anybody with an interesting story to tell can tell it online and use social media to connect directly with reporters. While many reporters do not have their own blog or Facebook account, the vast majority of them now have Twitter accounts. They use Twitter to research ideas, find sources, read case studies, and keep an eye on breaking news. And, savvy communicators can use Twitter to find and pitch their stories to reporters most likely to be interested.
Before you rush off to send your favourite journalist a tweet telling them all about your amazing organization, event, or service, you need to rethink your pitch, change your strategy and get your ducks in a row.
Here’s eleven things to consider when connecting with reporters on Twitter:
- Make sure your profile is in tip-top shape e.g. your profile image is professional and your cover image best represents your organization (and sized correctly so they don’t stretch and pixelate), your company description is well-written and includes your phone, email and website information.
- Take the time to determine the top five or ten reporters most interested in your stories and build a relationship with them before you contact them. Simple things like retweeting their tweets or responding to their tweets goes a long way in having them pay more attention to you when you’re ready to pitch.
- Create a Twitter list of the top five or ten reporters most likely to be interested in your story pitches and keep an eye on the stories that reporter work on. It’s also the best way to find tweets they post that you want to engage with by retweet or responding. If appropriate, offer them information on a story they are working on and become a source for future stories.
- Research each reporter so you know more about the things that interest them, personally and well as professionally, so they become real people to you, not just someone to help you gain publicity for your cause. There’s no point in building a relationship with a sports reporter if you’re pitching stories about the local food bank.
- Spend some time exploring the kinds of stories that interest each reporter: the kinds of stories they post, the kinds of images they include, the posts they retweet and the people and organizations that they follow and that follow them.
- Check out their corporate website to see if they publish a blog and/or their bio is included on their website. See if they also have a LinkedIn profile -- many reporters do. Google the top five or top ten reporters to see if you can glean any additional information about them that might help you identify them as a relevant candidate for your story pitches.
- Don’t copy, paste and send your story pitches to several reporters. Once you pitch a reporter, they can and will check your profile and your recent tweets. Once they see that you have pitched the same story to other reporters they will quickly lose interest.
- Contact the reporter via their own account, not the corporate account of their company. There’s no sense pitching to their company’s corporate account. It is an automatic stream and your pitch will be ignored.
- Craft your tweet as a tightly as a headline in a newspaper, magazine, email subject line or media release. Your objective is to sell the story in as few words as possible so that the reporter is interested enough that they will contact you for more details. Direct messaging is always better than a public post so, if you can, take your story pitch out of the public domain.
- Reporters are really busy, bombarded by hundreds of story pitches daily and constantly facing deadlines. If they don’t respond or reply right away wait a day or two and then try another angle on the story. If they still don’t respond move on to another reporter on your top five or top ten list and try again.
- Keep your story pitch to one tweet or two maximum. If you can’t pitch the story in 140 characters, less if you want to leave enough characters that it can be retweeted (120 characters is thought to be the sweet spot), then your story is over complicated.
What has changed in the world of media relations in the last hundred years is that Twitter now makes it easy to find, connect and pitch story ideas to reporters. What has not changed is the need to strategically build a respectful, resourceful and productive relationship with reporters before you make your first pitch.
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