March 16, 2012
/ by Katrina M Mendolera
The ins and outs of social media relationships between PR professionals and journalists may seem at first glance a complex matter. But when all the rules and practices are boiled down, good relationships, no matter what the vehicle of communication, are always going to be the basis of positive interactions. Still, it can be daunting when trying to connect amidst the tweeting masses. inVocus spoke with Chicago Tribune social media manager Amy Guth, who offered some tips on standing out in a crowd and which rules of the social media highway she believes work best.
KMM: In general, what techniques have you seen people use to really stand out when sending out tweets or posts?
Amy Guth: Here’s the thing – it’s the “social” part of social media that makes it work. The people I see using social media successfully are the people who are well-mannered, respectful and human. That applies to people using social media for any industry, or personally.
A point about social media that is often overlooked is that it is a return to the person-to-person business model. This business model is not new, but in fact, quite old. It’s no longer a customer armed with an 800-number going up against a nameless corporation, but instead it is a throwback to when consumers knew the banker, the grocer, etc. by name and knew that most of the time, a reasonable human conversation could solve any problem that arose.
I think the key is what is often referred to as the “rule of thirds,” which is to share your own “stuff” a third of the time, “stuff” related in topic but from another source a third of the time, and interact and be human a third of the time. An example of how that might play out is like this: say you are reporter and your beat is technology. A third of the time, share what you and your colleagues have written. A third of the time, share other great technology stories from other sources, because this shows your followers that you are on top of your area of expertise. Then, finally, a third of the time, ask and answer questions and retweet other users.
KMM: Some journalists have thousands of followers – how hard would you say it is for someone to stand out when trying to get the attention of a reporter?
AG: I always assume people have turned follower notifications off, so when I decide to follow a new person, I usually send a public tweet to explain why I followed him or her that also serves to let them know I did so. For example, “I enjoyed your story about the XYZ widget factory, @SoandSo. Glad to cross paths.” Simply put, I explained why I followed him or her, I said hello, I made myself visible and I tipped my hat to this person for my followers to follow suit if they so choose. On the flipside, I don’t appreciate the “please follow me” types of tweets. Be authentic and interact with people with whom you are genuinely interested, and the followers will come. Beg for followers (while not giving a compelling reason to do so) and it’s a nonstarter.
A story I often tell is about two fundraisers using Twitter. One sent me a tweet and said “Follow me back so I can raise money for a charity.” I didn’t know who the guy was, what charity he was representing, why the charity was important to him, why having followers equated to fundraising in his case, and so on. But, on the same day, another person sent me a tweet that was a pretty interesting and insightful response to a topic I was discussing on Twitter. A few days later, she asked me a question. I answered her. A day after that, she cracked me up with a response to something else. You can bet I clicked through to follow her. And, when I did, I discovered she was at the helm of a charity event, and one I’d never heard of before. I asked her about her cause and event, and through a couple of tweets, we had a great exchange about it.
What a difference in these two approaches, truly. I still follow the second person; I can’t remember the first guy’s name.
KMM: How specifically can a PR professional stand out when trying to garner the attention of a journalist on social media? What are some good and bad practices?
AG: Frankly, when someone pitches me without bothering to build some level of familiarity, not only do I disregard the pitch, it, to me, also undermines the authenticity and trust of the person pitching. When people ask me how to pitch on twitter, I say: don’t. Build relationships through social media, be interesting, be real and then – then – when you have something to promote, the connection is there and you know exactly who to talk with about it.
KMM: What are your thoughts on the journalist/PR relationship via social media?
AG: The journalist/PR relationship through social media is the same as it is anywhere else. The key to the most successful relationships in this category, in my opinion, are a mutual understanding of ethics surrounding both industries and remembering that the ROI on using social media is the same ROI as having a face-to-face conversation.
–Katrina M. Mendolera
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