Journalists are going mobile, and PR pros have to adapt their pitching techniques.
Social media and other emerging mobile technologies have changed the way people interact, especially when it comes to doing business. If you look around any restaurant, coffee shop or sporting venue—everyone is on his or her phone.
Facebook and Twitter have become part of our everyday lives and are affecting the future of journalism. Although in PR there are contrasting opinions on the appropriateness of reaching out to journalists through social media, I advise you to proceed—but with caution.
Your approach has to be professional, and you must use the appropriate channel. Here are a few rules for engaging with journalists online:
Go back and forth.
Similar to other forms of conversation, social media is a two-way street. If you expect a journalist to show interest in your pitch, you should show interest in their content.
Follow the journalist and share, comment on and “like” their posts. Building mutually beneficial relationships online takes only a few minutes a day; use them wisely.
Do your research.
If you follow a journalist on Twitter and have the intention of pitching them a story, make note of what they’ve covered recently, what news they’ve retweeted or shared and what interests them outside work. This will help you determine whether your pitch is relevant and interesting.
Know the proper channel to use.
Your approach will depend upon which platform you use. Facebook is a casual place for friends to share stories—not the most appropriate medium for pitching. Many journalists prefer to maintain their privacy here.
Although LinkedIn is considered a professional channel, it’s mainly used for networking, so proceed only if you’re looking to connect with potential sources.
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Most journalists are active on Twitter and commonly use it as a business tool. Start here with a reporter you might not know, then work your way up to using additional platforms.
Remember that Twitter is a public forum, so avoid sending multiple journalists the same pitch. If one clicks on your profile to see who sent the information, you’ll lose credibility if they also find a slew of similar tweets to their competitors.
Try sending a direct message (DM), and make sure the account from which you are reaching out—especially if it’s your personal account—is established, has a professional tone and provides an easily recognizable photo. This adds to your trustworthiness.
Know when to send a follow-up.
Social media pitches are acceptable, but your approach should be genuine; try not to come on too strongly. Send a follow-up once; if you don’t hear back, just move on.
If you’re able to craft a pitch in 140 characters or fewer, pitching journalists through social media is a quick, easy way to share your messages.
Lindsay Mason is a senior account executive at Red Fan Communications. A version of this article originally appeared on its blog.