I spent 10 years as a reporter in the BT (Before Twitter) era. Now as a social media strategist and public relations professional, I’ve found Twitter to be my primary and most successful method of building and maintaining relationships with reporters. It’s brought my clients and I tens of thousands of dollars in free press coverage.
One public relations agency I work with even grew out of a connection made on Twitter. And that’s perhaps the main reason I advise every public relations professional to become a regular. Just like real life, you communicate with a large circle of professionals, but the bulk of the benefits come from just a handful of clients or connections you make over months and years.
I consider Twitter the tool that delivers tangible value in great gulps, so long as you commit to it for a year.
Skeptical? Here’s how I use it:
1. Find the reporters by searching through Muckrack.
2. Peruse the “contact us” pages of your local media outlets to track down reporters’ Twitter names. Be helpful especially when it doesn’t help you directly.
3. Watch for tweets asking for help, especially on deadline. That’s the quickest way to strike up a relationship.
4. Monitor and post hashtags of the town or topic you or your client is involved in. Even if the reporters don’t tweet, they’ll likely monitor it for interesting story ideas.
5. Say something nice about the story a reporter wrote or aired, making sure you add the reporter’s Twitter name to the comment. When possible, link to the story.
6. Retweet their tweets, especially when they link to their stories.
7. Offer to connect them with experts you think will genuinely help them on their beats.
8. Thank them via Twitter for covering an event you attended, especially if you were able to chat with the reporter. This helps solidify the new contact.
9. Look out for story ideas for them, not just big stories but follow-up pieces on stories they’ve already done.
10. Thank them especially when they write about an idea you pitched.
11. Take note of something in the reporter’s Twitter bio when sending an initial tweet. It tells the journalist you took a moment to learn about them.
12. Extend the relationship to other social networks if they’re more active elsewhere, or get their e-mail.
13. Congratulate them on their birthdays or other news they tweet about themselves.
14. Highlight them on your own blog.
Now it’s your turn. How do you use Twitter to work with journalists?