Talking to journalists on Twitter

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.


9 thoughts on “Talking to journalists on Twitter

  1. Pingback: Top 5 Tips: How to talk to journalists on Twitter « The Seldom Seen Kid

  2. Pingback: 4 things PR must do online in 2009 « The Seldom Seen Kid

  3. Pingback: The Social Media Goes Gonzo Blog Carnival | danny brown

  4. Thanks for sharing your experiences thus far. I haven’t had the opportunity to pitch a reporter using Twitter yet, but I have had some positive interactions with reporters when I was researching news outlets. In my opinion, if you can get the conversation going, that is more important than trying to just pitch a story right away.

  5. Here from the Gonzo Social Media Carnival.

    I’m a journalist, unfortunately at the moment I’m with a paper to write for as the company where I was working went under at the end of July. Thankfully, typepad accepted me in it’s Journalist Bailout Program.

    What I’ve seen in this article and some other things in your blog I think there are some things we can do to work together for mutual benefit. I have an email link in my profile or you can contact me on Twitter, @Machione.

  6. Pingback: Untitled Post « Anything Goes with Mikotostar

  7. Great post. As an ex-journalist and present pr hack, I am amazed how truly difficult it is to get through to the likes of the former me. I surely didn’t realize it at the time. Must be the reason journalism is slowly, and painfully, dying. My experiment this year is to see if I can teach this old journalism dog new media tricks.

  8. Thank you for the comment Claire :)

    I did a degree in journalism and we were taught that you never know what might be in the next press release, so it sometimes (although increasingly less so) surprises me how elusive certain journalists can be.

    To that extent, I think as PRs we need to cultivate processes that make the communication cycle easier and social media is just one tool to do so. The issue will be of course when the likes of Twitter beome saturated with PRs broadcasting their client news and the journalists begin to ignore all PRs, and we need to find another way to create a two way dialogue.

  9. Hi Drew, thank for the comment :)

    Totally agree with you – I think that relationship building is better for the long term. Ok, so you may not get a piece of coverage for your client, but i think that the traditional PR route is slowly ceasing to work, and that the 2.0 relationships we’re building will take longer to solidify but will be more rewarding than those of the 1.0 era.

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