Social media has made it far easier for small businesses to interact with journalists who can help generate publicity and buzz for their brand, products, or services. Twitter in particular offers a means for disseminating important messages quickly with relatively little effort and minimal expense. That’s because many journalists now rely on the microblogging network as a source of news leads and expert resources.
So, how can your organization make sure each tweet — which you can think of as a 140-character public relations opportunity — has the maximum impact with reporters or media influencers? Here are eight tips for reaching journalists via Twitter.
- Follow the journalists you want to reach. Before attempting to target anyone, spend time reading the tweet streams of the journalists who influence your industry. This will give you a better sense of what may attract their attention, especially if you decide to query one of them directly. Keep in mind that few things annoy journalists more than pitches that are clearly outside their scope of interest. Don’t make a bad first impression.
- Find common connections. Does someone you know already have a relationship with the journalist you’re trying to reach? Referrals can go as far on Twitter as they do elsewhere.
- Flaunt your expertise. Tweet about what you know. Mix up your comments between those that are self-serving (i.e., specific to your company) and those that demonstrate thought leadership in your industry. Make sure your Twitter profile emphasizes your expertise and includes a link to your website, so that interested journalists can learn more about your company.
- Stay on point. Twitter is a great place to showcase your personality or point of view, but stick to your area of expertise and refrain from super personal or trivial tweets. In other words, keep comments about your family, religion, or hobbies separate from your company’s Twitter identity.
- Retweet liberally. If a journalist’s comments or insights resonate with you and your business, retweet them to your followers. This will allow you to subtly introduce yourself and your common interests, which may help later when your company approaches the journalist directly with news or information.
- Get your customers tweeting about you. Journalists are likely to listen to and trust what your company’s customers say about your business. Indeed, they might trust your customers and partners more than they trust you, at least until you build a relationship. If your best clients use Twitter, make sure your company’s products and services are part of their conversations — and refrain from filtering or censoring them.
- Query and respond to queries circumspectly. After your organization has established a Twitter presence, the time will come when you are ready to suggest that a journalist follow up on a development at your company. Pitch by using the reporter’s Twitter handle (@journalistname). Keep it specific, and don’t pitch two journalists about the same topic simultaneously unless you disclose that fact. The same rules apply if your organization decides to respond to a journalist’s tweet requesting sources for a story. If your expertise is truly relevant, respond away. If it isn’t, don’t waste the journalist’s time; you don’t want to be remembered that way.
- Be persistent. Don’t expect to acquire 10,000 Twitter followers overnight. Building a relationship with followers takes time and focus. Likewise, it will take concentrated research to identify and study the journalists on Twitter who can help tell your company’s story. If you’re worried about the resources it will take to develop these relationships, then you should think twice about whether Twitter outreach is your best public relations strategy.