Social media pitching: Journalists share their preferences

A half-dozen scribes convened for a recent panel discussion and offered personal dos and don’ts for PR pros.


Wouldn’t you like to be a fly in a newsroom?

Most PR pros would respond with a resounding “yes.” Who wouldn’t want to hear how journalists respond to pitches, find news leads, and use social media to do their jobs?

A group of journalists did just that recently, and here’s what they said.

On Feb. 21, six working journalists convened for “Twitch! Communications in the Age of Social Media,” at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

I put together their responses to help PR pros do their jobs better.

In addition to me, panelists included Stacey Samuel, producer at CNN; Mike DeBonis, politics reporter at the Washington Post; Davar Ardalan, producer for NPR’s “Tell Me More,” Jenee Desmond-Harris, White House correspondent for The Root; Julie Bykowicz, Financial Reporter for Bloomberg News; and Molly McCluskey, freelance financial reporter for the Motley Fool.

Here’s what they shared:

Have a social presence. Not only is it smart to be on social media to reach your customers, but journalists hang out there, too.

Jenee Desmond Harris (@jdesmondharris), White House correspondent at TheRoot.com revealed that every morning she checks Twitter and Facebook to find news that no one else is writing about. She also checks her friends and followers whenever she needs sources.

“When people pitch me from social media, I don’t look at it any differently than an email. If it works for them and it works for me, I don’t really care where I get the pitch,” she said.

Befriend reporters on social media. “I’ll [follow] anybody, because you never know when someone will tweet something newsworthy,” explained The Washington Post’s Mike Debonis (@mikedebonis). “People tweet me stuff all the time, and some things are turned into stories,” he said. “Other things simply go in my morning roundup.”

“If you can pitch me in 140 characters, great!” added Molly McCluskey (@mollyemccluskey). “Thoughtful pitches are like Christmas,” she said. “Pitching in 140 characters is an added bonus.

“I use social media as a tool to meet people, not a crutch,” she said. “My whole reason for being online is to get offline.”

Don’t think you have no chance. Your odds of successfully pitching CNN through Twitter may be better than you think.

CNN producer Stacy Samuel (@sss2128) explained, “People never pitch me via Twitter, but I’m open to it.” She added: “I’m careful what I put on social media, because I work for a corporate news organization. My retweets do not equal endorsements.”

Don’t forget Facebook. Davar Ardalan, producer of NPR’s Tell Me More (@NPRTellMeMore), said “Tell Me More” picks a story each week that will be focus of social media outreach. They find sources via Facebook and consider it a priority to get their audiences involved not only on big news events but also on cultural stories.

She also built a community around a hashtag (#NPREdChat) that developed into an hourlong live show. She also believes “Geotagging is a fascinating frontier.”

Don’t bother pitching on the phone. More than one journalist bemoaned the telephone, with DeBonis saying phone pitches were “kind of creepy.”

Julie Bykowicz (@Bykowicz) of Bloomberg News said she thinks phone pitches are intrusive, like “someone knocking on your front door.”

Additionally, when it comes to pitching, Bykowicz is beginning to feel that emails are just too long.

“Twitter allows me to see if I’m interested and follow up for more information if necessary,” she said. “For those people I can’t get on the phone or email, I might use a tweet, for example: Donald Trump.”

The event was the kickoff of a national tour in media markets by Littlejohn, who plans to visit five other major media markets this year. Learn more at http://twitchsocialmedia.com.

Amanda Miller Littlejohn is the founder of Mopwater PR and a contributor to BlackEnterprise.com.

Topics: PR

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