How PR pros can win with journalists on Twitter

Reporters are highly active on the microblogging platform, and savvy communicators can take advantage of the opportunities it brings. Here’s how to do it.

The importance of using social media for PR is not a new concept, but many communicators still struggle to integrate digital tactics into their overall strategies.

“Social media has changed every part of PR,” Greg Galant, CEO of Muck Rack, told attendees at a session at Ragan Communications’ Social Media for Corporate Communications Conference at Disney World. “Even if you aren’t posting, it’s affected every part of your job.”

Galant’s general social media advice to PR pros is to figure out which platforms matter to your industry and your audience. For example, Galant says if you cater to a demographic of 25 and under, “Snapchat is not optional.”

However, there are a few platforms that every PR pro should employ; Facebook is the biggest, and journalists are on Twitter. When it comes to reporters, the microblogging platform is the clear hangout location: More than 86 percent of journalists check Twitter several times a day, while fewer than 20 percent use Facebook and fewer than 2 percent use LinkedIn.

Nearly 80 percent of journalists use social media to find breaking news, but that’s not the only thing they’re doing: More than 73 percent use social media to check what the competition is doing, nearly 60 percent use it to find story ideas, and about half use social media platforms to search for sources. The numbers point to major opportunities for savvy PR pros to get their news in print and online.

Galant joined Twitter in the beginning days of the social media platform, when it was called “Twittr.” “It was before they could afford the vowels,” he says. As an early adopter, Galant knows a few tricks for PR pros to connect with journalists.

Relationships are still essential

The importance of building relationships with reporters is still paramount on social media; 93 percent of journalists said they appreciate it when communications pros follow them on Twitter.

Galant recommends conducting a Twitter audit before reaching out to reporters online. A good profile picture, a description that relays who you are and what you do, a cover photo and interesting tweets are all things that can endear a PR pro in the eyes of a reporter.

“You build your Twitter profile one tweet at a time,” Galant says. Generally people look at the last 20 tweets when checking out a profile, so making sure it’s a good representation of your brand—not too promotional or too snarky—is always a smart idea.

Pitching in the social media age

Just as PR pros need to perfect pitches offline, there are a few guidelines to ensure sending reporters your story on Twitter is met with success.

Read what they’ve recently written and tweeted. (Galant suggests checking out their last five stories.) Keep things short and sweet when tweeting and when pitching—nearly 93 percent of journalists still want to receive pitches via email—and if a reporter does take your pitch, tweet a link to the story and tag him or her in it.

PR pros know the importance of persistence. Galant says following up on a pitch for Muck Rack increases the likelihood of acceptance from 10 percent to almost 40 percent.

Though 67 percent of journalists said following up is OK, only 5 percent say it’s fine to follow up more than once. Galant says forming a relationship can make that important second contact much more successful; PR pros can also use tools such as Boomerang to make sure they don’t drop the ball.

Monitor and measure

Because journalists are constantly searching Twitter for story ideas, news and sources, vigilant PR pros can grab additional opportunities by monitoring mentions and requests.

Galant shares a story of a journalist tweeting a request for PR and marketing pros coming to South by Southwest a few years ago; within half an hour, Galant replied with an offer to talk about Muck Rack. Within an hour, emails were exchanged and a phone interview was scheduled. Galant was quoted in a CNet article the next morning.

By offering your time and insights, you can get in a reporter’s good graces and help influence stories about your brand.

Along with monitoring comes measuring. Social media has made it much easier for PR pros not only to increase the reach of their news, but also to bolster the influence and success of their efforts.

“It’s the first time ever we have universal, quantitative data on how well our articles are performing,” Galant says.

PR pros can use platform-specific insights on Facebook and Twitter (access your data through Twitter’s ad platform), along with Google alerts and a Muck Rack tool called “Who shared my link.” Simply copy your link in the search bar, and the tool will tell you how many times it was shared, along with which bloggers and journalists did the sharing.

Not only can these measurement opportunities help PR pros justify their work to executives and clients, but it can also help them identify the right reporters and bloggers, making it easier to solidify those relationships.

“PR can now be quantified and justified better than any time in history,” Galant says.

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