I’ve recently had two extremely differing experiences as a PR approaching journalists on Twitter.
A client of ours recently hi-jacked a news story, which our business division took care of, and put out an e-shot on the same day which was tasked with selling in. I experimented with approaching a couple of journalists I follow on Twitter to see what the best way to throw a story idea at them was. What I found was two very different results. I pitched the e-shot at 6 hacks and had 3 positive results and 3 negative results.
I used the same text for each of them – very colloquial and humanistic. If you’ve read my previous posts about my theories on how PR should be conducted, you’ll hopefully have ascertained that I’m as honest as possible in the way I comunicate with journalists.
The first set of hacks were all very receptive to this approach, and actually appeared to be genuinely interested in why I was using Twitter to contact them. I ended up having a fifteen minute conversation with a BBC News correspondent about this very topic – this is notable for several reasons a) we spoke about the story for literally a few minutes and the remainder of the time we spoke about Twitter and different methods of communication b) it’s difficult to get hold of ANY BBC journalists, letalone the guys creating outside broadcasts c) we’ve built a little bit of a relationship, albeit only fledgling, but I hope the journalist in question will remember me next time not because of the story, but because of the way I conducted myself.
The second group were all very suspicious. Am I just another jumped up PR trying to get around their bullshit radar? Am I trying to appear ‘cool’ by talking to them on Twitter an a bid to get kudos and hopefully coverage for my client? I hope that’s not how I would come across to them. In fact, one particularly important journalist was overly grumpy with me – he may have been having a bad day, and this is fair enough, but don’t take it out on little old me trying to give you something (which turned out to be very) juicy to write about!
So what did I learn?
That Twitter is just another conduit in the PR/Journalist communication path. It’s an interesting, and so far, primitive way of getting in contact. There are increasingly more writers looking for comment on Twitter, which is a great thing. If, as a PR, you can get what your client needs to say in across in one or two tweets, then you’re doing your job pretty effectively. I think journalists are very open to this.
Pitching stories in is a trickier subject, as I’ve discovered. You need to catch the journalist in the right frame of mind, even more so than when sending an e-mail. A polite f*** off over e-mail is deletion, on Twitter you may just encounter a tweet back that isn’t very pleasant! Look at what previous tweets the journalist has posted in the last 24-48 hours, find out if they’re busy or don’t want to be disturbed, or feeding the cat – whatever. It is even more critical to time your tweet right than when sending out an e-mail – make sure you’re certain the journalist will be happy to be contacted and you may well strike gold.