8 tips for reaching journalists on Twitter

Audit your social media channels. Follow that journalist. And—must it be said?—get rid of that egg. Tips from Muck Rack’s CEO.


Editor’s note: This story is taken from Ragan’s distance-learning portal RaganTraining.com. The site contains hundreds of hours of case studies, video presentations, and interactive courses.

Twitter and the rest of social media are supposed to be magical ways to reach journalists.

But if you’re tweeting to reporters, editors and producers and never sensing the slightest interest, you might be wondering, “What gives?”

In a session titled “Unleash the power of social media for PR: Pitch, monitor and measure,” Gregory Galant—co-founder and chief executive of Muck Rack—offers tips for using the new interactive platforms that journalists are likely to see, among them Twitter.

Consider the floods of tweets that journalists post, looking for information every hour of every day, according to Galant:

  • A writer for New York magazine tweets: “Does anyone know how long the bike path is for Manhattan bridge, also estimated calories burned? For a story. Can quote you!”
  • A finance writer tweets: “For a story, looking for tech journalists who’ve covered #SXSW to share reporter survival tips.”

If you want in on the game, here are a few tips:

Make your bio count

Conduct an audit of all your social media presences, starting with Twitter, Galant says. Start with your bio: Think through what you want to say about yourself in that limited space.

Provide information about your profession, but also tell about who you are as a person. Consider mentioning where you’re from or what your hobbies are.

“Make that 160-character bio really represent who you are,” Galant says.

Check your own posts

Look through your last 20 tweets and ask yourself whether you’re being too promotional. How’s your tone—and how might it be received by a curious journalist who clicks through to your Twitter feed? Too snarky? Or not sassy enough?

Update LinkedIn

Really, gang, when you land a new job, update that LinkedIn profile.

“I still see lots of people pitching me, and they haven’t even updated it yet with their current employer yet, so I get confused,” Galant says. “Do they still work there?”

Follow that journalist

Don’t be shy: More than 90 percent of journalists say they appreciate it when communications professionals follow them on social media. Sixty percent use online platforms to get story ideas.

Everybody wants more followers. “Journalists really want more followers, because it’s how they’re judged,” Galant says. “It might affect their next promotion.”

What doesn’t look good is to follow minutes before making a pitch. Remember, Twitter users get an email when they score a new follower, so it’s not as though you can sneak into the back of the room and pretend you’ve been there all along.

Galant recalls a journalist’s grumbling to him about this very practice. Following even a few days in advance suggests that you’ve spent some time watching what the reporter tweets.

Read up on the journalist

Before you pitch a journalist, read at least the last five articles that he or she wrote.

“How quickly do they write?” Galant says. “Was their last post a month ago? Are they writing three things a day? What are they covering?”

Check reporters’ Twitter feeds

Read their last two dozen tweets to get a good understanding of what they write. While you’re at it, ask the same questions you would about yourself in terms of tone and the snark factor.

Promote journalists’ stories

You might imagine that all journalists are as famous as the “supersize” network anchor types and would never see a tweet by little old you. Actually, lots of reporters, even for major papers, have few enough followers that they notice responses.

There are journalists who write front-page stories for big-time publications, yet don’t have a massive following.

“Most journalists just have a couple hundred followers, maybe a couple thousand,” Galant says. “So if you’re engaging with them, answering their questions on Twitter, reading their stories, tweeting out their stories and @-mentioning them, they’ll actually notice it and they’ll recognize your name.”

Get rid of the egg

One might think it would go unsaid: Post a picture of yourself, or at least an interesting avatar, instead of Twitter’s placeholder egg. Apparently, there are those out there who still haven’t gotten the message. However ovoid and well-shaven your head might be, you are not an egg.

@r_working

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