By Lacey Haines (@laceyhaines), K/F Communications, San Francisco and Adam Vincenzini (@adamvincenzini), Paratus Communications, London.
Social media has created incredible opportunities and challenges for public relations professionals. While the challenges have been well documented, the opportunities that have arisen are just as important. Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, if used effectively, can help build relationships, identify new trends and help facilitate networking with like-minds throughout the industry.
One of the most profound and positive developments has been the breaking down of the walls between PR and the media. In one click you can find the most relevant reporters to the story you’re pitching, obtain a better understanding of what they like and what they’re interested in by reading their feed, get a direct link to their blog or website, and network with them via @reply or DM.
But what do journalists think about this transparency? Using social media, we asked our press network in the USA and UK how they felt about being pitched directly via social media sites. While responses were mixed, we noticed some trends.
KEEP YOUR PITCHES SHORT: E-mail pitches are still too long, and several people we heard from preferred a 140-character pitch on Twitter, to a traditional one via e-mail.
DIRECT MESSAGES ARE BETTER THAN @REPLY: Reporters can’t “opt-in” to pitches, but they can with Twitter. If there is a mutual following between PR people and a reporter, it usually means they know each other, and may welcome a direct message more than a longer e-mail pitch. A reporter for a major US business daily (who asked not to be quoted) said that he only follows PR people he knows or has worked with in the past, and prefers DM to @reply because he wouldn’t want competitors to know who he’s speaking with.
TWITTER PITCHES ARE NOVEL: A journalist for the News of the World(UK) said that but only one or two direct messages, so pitches made through Twitter stand out more.
And even if there isn’t a direct relationship in the beginning, pitching on Twitter has helped reporters and PR people build relationships that continue on e-mail or in person.
One of the more detailed responses was courtesy of Martin Stabe, Editor of Retail Week, one of the UK’s leading trade publications:
“For me, Twitter is a place to share ideas and links with like-minded friends and colleagues in online journalism and increasingly, to monitor sources of news and information.
By all means, join our conversation, but don't "pitch" me anything out of the blue unless we already know each other and you know that it's relevant.
I probably follow you if you've joined the conversations I'm part of before, so DM me with your idea, or look up my email and ping something over.
Some of the best relationships - on email and on the phone - I have with PRs are people who I also know on Twitter.”But not everyone was for social media pitching. A features writer for Style Magazine and a Businessweek editor both said they preferred e-mail to Twitter pitching. And one editor said that a big problem with Twitter DMs is that not everyone checks their direct messages often enough.
Another trend was that several preferred all Twitter pitches be followed up with an e-mail.
Start building relationships with reporters online, learn what THEY want to write about (vs. what you want them to write about), and your pitches will be much more effective.
Lacey, commenting on Twitter and PR said:
After a reporter covers a client of mine, I’ll tweet it out, with their Twitter handle attached. For time sensitive pitches, I’ll @reply the reporter I need to reach and ask for them to follow me so I can DM. I would never do this if I wasn’t positive that my story was relevant to the reporter. This has been very helpful as not only gaining coverage for clients, but building long-term relationships.Adam added:
I like the push-pull element of Twitter and the media. If I spot a journalist I follow tweeting about a subject that has links to my client, I can approach that journalist to provide help / assistance. It makes being collaborative a much easier and beneficial process.**Thank you to Matt Honan (Freelance writer, and WIRED magazine contributing editor), Maggie Shiels (Silicon Valley Correspondent, BBC), Scott McGrew (tech reporter for NBC Bay Area; host of Press:Here, and producer of TechNow), Christina Warren (tech blogger for Mashable), Harry Wallop (Consumer Editor of The Daily Telegraph), Vikki Chowney (Editor of Reputation Online), Leila Makki (Telecom.TV), Chris Milton (veteran independent journalist), Martin Stabe (Editor, Retail Week), Dan Martin (Editor of BusinessZone.co.uk) for agreeing to be quoted for this article.
Lacey Haines is a PR Program Manager at K/F Communications in San Francisco where she contributes to the day-to-day management of her account teams, as well as the long-term PR and social media plans for her clients, which have included Digg, TwitVid, Flock, and RowNine. In 2008, Lacey successfully placed Digg founder, Kevin Rose, on the cover of Inc. magazine, winning K/F Communications the 2009 Gold Hermes Creative Award from the Association of Marketing and Communications Professionals. Lacey blogs at laceyhaines.com and can be found on Twitter here: @laceyhaines
Adam Vincenzini is the lead social media consultant at Paratus Communications in London where he advises the agency's clients on how to shape communications activity around the end-user / participant. Adam was previously responsible for digital communications at Cricket Australia which included managing the 150,000-strong official fan community of the Australia Cricket Team. Adam blogs regularly at the COMMS corner and can be found on Twitter here: @AdamVincenzini