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The Twitter pitch

July 28: About once a month, AnnArbor.com business reporter Nathan Bomey receives a story pitch through direct message on Twitter. He is part of a rising number of journalists who have experienced the Twitter pitch, just one avenue that opened up to PR professionals with the advent of social media.

According to the 2010 PRWeek Media Survey, 61 percent of journalists have been pitched by Facebook, while 44 percent have been pitched by Twitter – up from 18 percent last year. Meanwhile, 43 percent of PR practitioners report using social media to pitch, with 76 percent using Twitter and 49 percent using Facebook.

Although the Wyoming-based Casper Star-Tribune city reporter Pete Nickeas said he hasn’t really been pitched yet by social media, he would be open to it as long as it was targeted to his beat. “I get stuff from politicians and whatnot on a fairly regular basis. It’s almost always event coverage, rarely is it issue or feature coverage. My news judgment doesn’t really change at all, just the method of delivery from those pitching the story,” he said in an e-mail interview.

In Bomey’s case, pitching through social media hasn’t become the preferred method of delivery just yet. “I don’t mind being pitched stories directly through social media as long as it’s a legitimate tip,” Bomey said in an e-mail interview. “However, I find that it’s still more efficient to receive pitches through e-mail because that gives me more information to decide whether it’s worth pursuing the story.”

Like Bomey, Bay Area News Group business editor Andrew Voros, prefers old school methods of delivery. “I have never been pitched via social media nor would I want to. E-mail and phones are still the best way,” he said. “Between e-mail, phones and news wires, I don’t have time to check.”

Indeed, PRWeek notes in the survey that 74 percent of PR practitioners and 84 percent of journalists say e-mail pitches continue to be the most effective way of communication.

Yet, the momentum doesn’t seem to be slowing as the world continues to embrace the social media phenomenon. Janet Thaeler, Internet marketer, writer specializing in SEO online press releases and author of “I need a killer press release, now what??” coaches clients on how to reach out to the media through Twitter. She recommends knowing what the journalist writes about as one rule of thumb. “If you know what a reporter is writing about it’s easier to think of angles they’d be interested in. If there’s a story that gets significant online coverage first, it’s easier to get additional coverage in the press.” Meanwhile, there is still a large faction of journalists who aren’t on Twitter, she noted, which means they need to be contacted by other means.

Whether a journalist has embraced the social media pitch or is holding on to the traditional methods of media exchange, social media has created a portal to greater communication between PR pros, journalists and readers. “It’s a significant shift to be able to observe and talk directly with so many people,” Thaeler said. “I was quoted in a front page story in our local newspaper not too long ago just because I follow the reporter on Twitter and we had interacted there.”

And while it’s important to avoid overkill when using social media, the same can be said for any form of communication. According to ReadWriteWeb, which offers a set of guidelines for pitching Twitter properly, Twitter should never be used just for pitching. Meanwhile, “If it’s a legitimate story, most reporters won’t care how they received the tip,” Bomey said.

— Katrina M. Mendolera

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