Pitching journalists via social media: yay or nay?

Although social media had given way to new alternative avenues for PR professionals to connect with journalists, many media industry pros seem to still prefer the email pitch to the social media pitch. But there are exceptions to every rule, and the art of pitching comes in many different shades. inVocus asked PR professionals to share their pitching experiences through social media. Those who responded found some success using social media for pitching, but have shown there is also a method to the madness:

Caroline Callaway, president of Bolt Public Relations

“From landing an article in the NY Times, to getting media to attend events, we leverage every opportunity, including but not limited to social media, to connect with journalists through their preferred channels. From our experiences, media have welcomed direct tweets and mentions on Twitter. With inundated email inboxes, many times this is the only way to grab their immediate attention.”

Dave Clarke, Founder/Lead Strategist, AuthenticMatters

“It depends on the journalist. Are they active on Twitter? Do they seem to reply publicly to people? What’s in their Twitter bio? Does it say, “pitch me!” or do they include their email address? Do your research beforehand.

Once you gauge whether or not they’ll be receptive, don’t spew. Sell soft. A tweet like “@journalist – Got something you might dig… best way to say hey?” is far more effective than “Hi @journalist, I represent @company. The have a new #product. I would like to set up a call.” The latter actually makes my skin crawl. And the journalist will laugh at you, show your tweet to their friends… nothing good.

And then it comes down to being selective. Don’t pitch a billion journalists via Twitter. There’s a good chance they might go look at your feed. It’s not going to benefit you if you have 40 identical tweets addressed to 40 different journalists. You’re essentially spamming via Twitter. And that’s not cool. Find a small handful of journalists that will actually care about your story and use Twitter to get to know them, engaging more and more along the way.”

Kelly Hargraves, Publicist, First Run Features/CounterIntuity

“I use Facebook a lot to pitch. I once got a feature in the Los Angeles Times about a pretty obscure Italian music act. I also pay attention to what my journalists are interested in at the moment, so I know what to pitch, or pay attention to their family life, so I know when NOT to pitch. It has become a very important part of my daily work activity.”

Melissa Hurley, Senior Director, Affect

“Among PR pros and media relations specialists, the topic of engaging with journalists via social media has received a ton of interest lately. Along with the excitement of pitching the media, say in 140 characters or less, comes this reality – the etiquette of doing so is still in the formative stage.

Part of the reason journalists like Twitter is because it confines long-winded PR people to 140 characters. Don’t clog up their Twitter feed with multiple tweets or direct messages for a single pitch—keep it to a single tweet. With Twitter, as with all social media, the lines between personal and professional are often blurred. It can be okay to use your personal Twitter account to pitch journalists if you’re keeping it professional.

A cold Twitter pitch may be even worse than a cold call. Twitter offers a venue for personal interactions with journalists. Pitching them on Twitter out the blue will likely not have the desired result. Follow them for a while, retweet them and comment on some of their tweets before you try to push your client or agenda.”

Richard M. Williams, Founder, Connect2 Communications, Inc.

“I use Twitter to pitch often for clients and my success is probably as good with Twitter as it is with email and phone. I’ve used it to reach editors at trade pubs like Network World to mainstream newspapers like USA Today. I recently pitched an editor at Yahoo! Shine over Twitter and we quickly took the conversation to email. It can be a really good way for them to engage. The 140 character limit helps sharpen the pitch. Also, it’s a good idea to follow the editor and retweet or like some of their posts first. I’ve also had reporters tell me to not pitch on Twitter and their feed is automated and not checked by them personally very often.”

–Katrina M. Mendolera