November 23, 2015 / by Katie Gaab

Over the past decade, social media has dramatically changed the way we find, access and read the news. Media outlets present stories much differently, shifting from traditional print editions to mobile-friendly video recaps.

Journalists are slowly, but surely, hopping on the social media train too. Today, 23 percent accept pitches via social media.

But how can PR professionals catch reporters’ attention when social media makes it easy for anyone, anywhere to reach out with a story lead?

“Half the battle is just being there when journalists are looking for new angles,” says Ian Greenleigh, author of “The Social Media Side Door.”

At his recent Cision webinar, Ian shared three ways to engage with target journalists and media outlets to increase your chances of gaining media coverage. During “Switch Your Pitch: The Keys to Engaging Journalists on Social,” Ian also discussed how the success of pitching on social media depends on the way your target journalists or media outlets are already using these platforms.

Here’s a quick overview of how Ian suggests connecting with journalists on social media.

1. Become a Known Quantity

According to Ian, to earn recognition and credibility on social media, you must be 3-D — that is, go from anonymous to familiar, unproven to credible and one of many unnoticed, faceless entities to a distinguished social user.

For example, Ian suggests leveraging the 77 percent of American journalists who blog. PR professionals can easily comment on these posts, share them with their own followers or reference the work by quoting or linking to the content.

“These little social signals can yield big outside results,” he says.  

Additionally, PR professionals could target the 67 percent of American journalists use Twitter.

This social platform is great for building relationships with reporters before you need to pitch them, Ian says. He suggests dedicating a tweet deck solely to journalists you want to connect with or eventually pitch to keep track of what they’re saying and take part in their conversations.

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2. Climb the Ladder


The trick to getting a prime spot in an elite media outlet is understanding the symbiotic relationship between smaller outlets and larger ones.

Smaller outlets want reach and authority, while the higher rungs of the media ladder are desperate for material all the time to stay on top of the 24-hour news cycle.

Ian suggest tracing backlinks and mapping networks to determine where these outlets source material and which individuals to build a relationship with through social signals.

You should also pay attention to how media outlets experiment with newer platforms, such as Snapchat or Periscope.

“If you’re one of the PR people playing in this sandbox, you become more of a privilege audience,” he says.

But before you get involved, you must determine whether leveraging newer platforms will actually help make connections.

Ian suggests asking yourself these questions:

  • Are the journalists I follow or target using these platforms?
  • Can I reach them organically to deliver value?
  • Does this fill a gap or is it duplicative of my current efforts?

3. Target With Social Ads

Finally, Ian highlighted the benefits of pitching reporters via social media ads.

“They’re cheaper, more effective and have better targeting,” he says.

Ian experimented with this for his recent book, using LinkedIn ads to showcase his expertise. He targeted journalists with clear calls to action to contact him as a source or upcoming guest.

He also discussed how to leverage your brand’s blog content in social ads as a more long-term method to gain media coverage.

Ian pointed to the success of Parachute Media. The team there wrote a BuzzFeed-esque blog post and put $50 into promoting it as a social ad after it gained social proof. They targeted people who worked for media brands and outdoor companies like REI.

“Let the content do the talking,” Ian says. “It’s not about pitching yourself in the content, but more about establishing expertise.”

Whichever option your brand chooses to try, remember that social media shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all of your PR strategy.

“Social media acts as a nice complement to the things we’re already doing,” Ian says.


Images: vxlagosheshe (Creative Commons)


Tags : social media

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About Katie Gaab

Katie Gaab is a content marketing specialist for Cision. Previously the senior editor for Help A Reporter Out (HARO), she enjoys connecting audiences to exciting, new content. She's a dancer, avid concert-goer, foreign language nerd and book worm. Find her on Twitter @kathryngaab.