Editor’s note: This article is a re-run as part of our countdown of top stories from the past year.
Social media has changed the way PR and media interact. The technology has enabled much faster communication, which means that the news cycle has become instantaneous.
But even more than that, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have built essential forums that facilitate stronger relationships between PR experts and journalists, as well as deeper insight in advance about the topics being covered.
For PR professionals, it’s important to understand the most effective ways to engage with the media outlets.
Social Media Facilitates Relationship Building
PR professionals need to be effective at creating and developing connections with different members of the media, from journalists and editors to producers, and everyone in between. These connections can also be established by sharing eye-catching content on their social media feeds, with formats like video.
According to Smart Insights, a huge segment of PR experts use social media as their main platform for building relationships with the media.
Using social media to connect with journalists
Consider these tips for connect with media pros on social media platforms:
1. Engage with their content.
It’s very likely that you will find many of the media contacts that you want to connect with on Twitter. When you do, follow them and engage with their tweets, but only if you have something of value to add.
Take the time to read their articles so you can gain a better understanding of what they like and what they don’t like. Reply, retweet and favorite their tweets (without overdoing it) and you’ll soon get on that person’s radar. They will recognize your name as being someone who is interested in the content they are sharing.
2. Mention relevant social media posts in your pitch.
Whether you’re cold calling or sending emails, one of the best ways to connect with journalists is to mention a related social post when you send your pitch.
Personalization is the key to success when using this approach. Journalists appreciate unique, personalized communications that show them you’re paying attention and that you’re critically thinking about the topic.
To make this tactic even more powerful, try to pair relevant data with each story you pitch. For journalists, data is everything, and this will help you to stand out and be viewed as a knowledgeable resource in your industry.
3. Share relevant content from your industry.
Yet another great way to ensure that journalists keep your brand top of mind is to share relevant content from your industry.
While there are keyword databases that provide excellent data for things like this, you can use the feeds within your social media platform to find relevant content if you don’t have access to paid tools. This extra step not only adds to your credibility as a valuable resource, but it also gives journalists the opportunity to interact with you, making it a lot more likely that they will cover important stories happening around you.
As a public relations professional, you understand the importance of maintaining media relationships, and by interacting with journalists, influencers and media outlets on social media, you can extend your professional relationship beyond a mere press release pitch.
4. Look for connection points in their feed.
Look for things you have in common with journalists. One way to do this is by checking out their posts on their blogs and on various social media platforms and use them as a personalized conversation opener.
By simply studying the journalist’s page or feed, you are likely to come across a lot of communication connection points that you can leverage in your efforts to connect. For instance, if you see them post about hosting a webinar, make sure you tell them that you’re excited and will be in attendance.
If you want to build strong media connections, it’s important to ensure that your relationship remains courteous and professional at all times.
5. Communicate naturally.
Social media is generally a more casual platform of communication than other channels, so chatting through social media in a more natural way is acceptable, and probably preferable.
However, you must be careful not to be overly casual or say inappropriate things that could offend your media contacts. To avoid such a situation, take the time to study how the journalist interacts on social media, and then match their style when communicating with them. In this regard, it’s better to err on the side of professionalism.
6. Stick to appropriate platforms.
Certain platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, are seen as more “private” and may feel invasive if you reach out to a journalist there.
Although some people may disagree that you shouldn’t try to engage with media people on Facebook or Instagram, many PR experts feel that there’s less chance of success in these platforms since they can cross with the journalists’ personal lives. It’s important for relationship building to respect certain boundaries and avoid interrupting their personal lives unless they specifically tell you to engage with them on these platforms.
Reaching out on Twitter, however, may be convenient and welcomed by the journalist if done appropriately. (For instance, don’t publicly tweet a pitch to the reporter for everyone else to see).
7. Share journalists’ work.
A great way to show genuine appreciation for the work of a journalist that you hope to connect with is to be generous with sharing their work on your social media channels.
Anytime you see that a journalist you want to build a relationship with has posted a new article, share it with your social network. State in your post what you liked about that article, and the reasons why others should read it.
Doing this will help ensure that journalists become familiar with you, and when the time comes to pitch them, they will recognize your name in their inbox (or caller ID), which makes it more likely that they will respond to you.
8. Reach out through your personal account.
When reaching out to media people, always use your personal account as opposed to a company or brand account. This is important for establishing trust so you can build solid relationships.
People prefer interacting with other people, and not generic email addresses or branded company accounts. The same goes for journalists. They need to be able to put a face to the name and using your own personal account will go a long way toward helping you to establish connections and nurture ongoing relationships.
However, don’t use your Gmail account to email reporters. When sending your pitches via email, make sure your email service provider has a configured SPF record and other email authentication methods. Otherwise, your email will end up in the spam or won’t be delivered at all.
9. Keep engaging, even when you have nothing to pitch.
If you only interact with a journalist for a short period of time on social media right before you pitch them, this can be a dead giveaway that you aren’t genuinely interested in establishing a long-term relationship.
That’s why it’s important to keep engaging, even when you don’t have anything to pitch. You can keep in touch in a variety of ways, such as through “in case you missed it” (ICYMI) emails, commenting on and sharing their stories on social media, leaving comments on their blogs, and so on.
This type of organic and thoughtful interaction allows you to build trust over time, so reporters know that you are a valuable resource and not just someone who only wants to promote his or her own interests.
Do you know of any other ways for PR experts to use social media to connect with journalists? Share your thoughts in the comments below!